Hilary Duff is suing Irvine-based Naturalena Brands, alleging company officials used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to claim a deal signed in 2019 for the actress to promote environmentally friendly diapers and feminine care products was over when in reality they were unhappy with the sales numbers.
The 33-year-old “Cheaper by the Dozen” star’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges breach of a written contract and misappropriation of the right of publicity. She’s seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the complaint filed Monday, the pleadings of which are largely blacked out.
A representative for Naturalena Brands could not be immediately reached for comment.
“This action is the result of (Naturalena’s) refusal to honor their contractual commitments under a celebrity endorsement agreement and associated guarantee relating to Hilary Duff’s endorsement of (Naturalena’s) natural baby and feminine hygiene products,” the suit alleges.
Duff’s name, photograph, voice, signature and likeness have “enormous commercial value” and companies regularly ask her to endorse their products to her “substantial following of fans around the world,” according to her court papers.
In late 2018, Naturalena’s representatives began discussions with Duff’s team about the actress possibly endorsing Naturalena’s Happy Little Campers and Veeda products, the suit says. The two sides entered a final endorsement agreement in October 2019, according to the plaintiff.
Duff attended photo shoots, news conferences and other events to promote Naturalena and its products, the suit states. She also authored blog posts, posted photographs and videos on her social media accounts and allowed Naturalena to post photo and videos featuring her on its own social media channels, according to the lawsuit.
Naturalena performed under the endorsement agreement for a time, but in an attempt to “avoid their clear contractual” obligations to Duff, the company “concocted a bogus claim of force majeure” — unforeseeable circumstances — by citing the coronavirus and in June claimed the endorsement agreement was terminated, the suit alleges.
“In fact, various press reports indicate that Naturalena experienced an increase in demand for its products range during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the suit states.
Naturalena “apparently believed that their sales would be better than they turned out to be,” but that was the risk the company took in entering the agreement, according to Duff’s court papers.
Despite allegedly refusing to pay Duff what she is owed and claiming to have ended the endorsement deal, Naturalena is still using her name and likeness to promote the products, according to the lawsuit.