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The mangled hand lawsuit: Readers riff
You had a lot to say about Emerson Electric's suit against NBC because of a scene in "Heroes" showing a hand getting chopped up in an InSinkErator.
By Paul R. La Monica, editor at large

NEW YORK ( -- Wow. You certainly had a lot to say about yesterday's column on the Emerson-NBC mangled hand "Heroes" lawsuit.

E-mails came pouring in, uh, hand over fist. Thanks to everyone who took the time to chime in.

Emerson Electric is suing NBC because of this scene in "Heroes." The girl's hand gets bloodied after being stuck in an InSinkErator.
"Heroes" has been one of the biggest hits of the new fall TV season and has helped lift raitings at NBC, wihch has struggled in recent years.
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Emerson Electric is suing NBC over the use of its InSinkErator in the new show 'Heroes.' CNN's Andy Serwer reports. (October 18)
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Several readers had their own witty, albeit groan-inducing, puns. Roger K. wrote in to say that NBC will win the suit "hands down!" And Devon H. joked that the InSinkErator sounded like the new name for a band featuring Lance Bass, formerly of boy group 'N Sync.

But most of you seemed to agree with me that Emerson Electric (Charts), which makes the InSinkErator garbage disposal, is being a bit silly for suing NBC because a scene in the pilot episode of its new hit "Heroes" shows a character getting her hand butchered after it gets stuck in the disposal.

"This is a (say it with me) F-I-C-T-I-O-N-A-L show, the fact that the girl's hand healed proves that. I HIGHLY doubt the garbage disposal company really lost any money from a shot that was probably a few seconds long," wrote Amy B.

Others pointed out they thought the suit sets a dangerous precedent.

"What's next, a car manufacturer suing because someone was injured in a chase scene, runs off the road, or hits an animal?" wondered Gerry B.

Most readers thought that if you're dumb enough to put your hand in a garbage disposal then that's your problem, not Emerson's, and that people need to take responsibility for their own foolish actions.

"There are no signs that tell you that you might fall off the ancient Roman aqueduct in Provence if venturing too close to the edge or leaning too far over the Cliffs of Moor in Ireland will result in a watery death. That does not mean people don't fall every year. It is just accepted there are idiots from all points on this planet who will challenge gravity and balance," wrote Larry K.

Well put, Larry. Then again, I'm surprised that nobody has sued the ancient Romans yet for their obviously shoddy architectural work. Have you seen what bad shape that Colosseum is in lately?

Several readers also thought the lawsuit would backfire against Emerson.

"I am in the process of building a home and knowing Emerson's propensity to launch frivolous lawsuits I will think twice about purchasing any of their equipment. Okay, I've thought twice...I will not purchase any Emerson products for my home regardless of the price or quality," wrote Michael H.

"If anything, I am tempted to not buy an Emerson product because of such a stupid legal stunt. I saw the episode and didn't take notice of the brand of garbage disposal...the whole thing is stupid," added Bruce D.

Others agreed that few would have even noticed that the garbage disposal in the scene was an InSinkErator if Emerson hadn't bothered to let everyone know that by suing NBC.

"I watched it on a 42" DLP screen in HD. I never noticed the brand name. And I work in construction and we use "InSinkErator" products," wrote Steven R.

Not everybody agreed with me though.

Mark D., who said his father works for Emerson, said that the scene could damage the company's reputation.

"Any bad publicity from a national television show would be catastrophic for their business...I think it is a gross misrepresentation to suggest that the lawsuit is being pursued to generate publicity for InSinkErator," he wrote.

And David T. took issue with my comment that if someone is moronic enough to stick their hand in a running garbage disposal, then it's not Emerson's concern.

"People sue for their own stupidity all the time and win. This is absolutely Emerson's problem," he wrote.

Several other readers agreed with him, pointing out the famous McDonald's (Charts) case involving a woman who sued the fast food chain (and won) because she burned herself after she placed a cup of hot coffee between her knees and accidentally spilled it on her legs. The woman and McDonald's later settled for an undisclosed sum after appeals.

Some wondered why I bothered writing the column in the first place.

"Honestly, I think this is some of the cheesiest journalism I've ever read," wrote BJ G.

And Drew M. sounded genuinely angry.

"Paul....Are you slow? Nave? Stupid? Or just a CNN jerk? Emerson Electric has every right to protect its good will, the product's name and InSinkErator's many years of faithful service in the kitchens of America," he wrote, adding that it "seems like you really want to be in that crowd of Fantasia lovers."

Wow. I've been called a jerk many a time in my life but I really don't think it has anything to do with my working for CNN. And I'm not exactly sure what he meant by the Fantasia comment. (The Disney (Charts) movie? The "American Idol" singer?) Then again, I'm slow, nave and stupid.

No such thing as bad publicity?

Some readers also joked that the scene may be good publicity for Emerson since it shows just how powerful the InSinkErator is.

"Perhaps more people will buy the Emerson product as a result of the show (and the publicity); if the product can do that to a human hand it must be pretty effective on general kitchen rubbish," quipped Leonard H.

"I'm really not sure what Emerson is complaining about. I know a half-horse power InSinkErator can take care of a flounder carcass but imagine the power necessary to remove human fingers! Now there is a garbage disposal I would buy!!" added Mark O.

Now about that issue of fingers getting chopped off. I finally watched the pilot episode of "Heroes" last night after downloading it from Apple's (Charts) iTunes Monday. It's hard to tell if Claire's (the cute cheerleader) fingers were actually chopped off or merely distorted beyond recognition. So it may be incorrect to claim that NBC falsely showed the InSinkErator cutting off appendages...but it definitely did a number on her hand.

And I noticed something else while watching the pilot (which, by the way, I loved...nice work NBC). Despite NBC's claims that it edited the scene for future use, the InSinkErator name was still clearly visible on the download I watched. Granted, I was actively paying attention to see if it would appear. But it was there.

Hmmm. Let the conspiracy theories continue. In fact, several readers said they didn't buy that this was an innocent oversight by NBC, especially since NBC is owned by General Electric (Charts), which also makes garbage disposals.

"Do I think that someone on the sound stage had the foresight to maliciously attack the Emerson product? No I don't, but I do think that it is very plausible that someone on the set saw the scene and thought it would be a bad idea to show the GE product and didn't think of the consequences behind using the competitor's product instead," wrote David K. "Bottom line, because GE owns NBC they have to think about these situations and they didn't."

Another reader pointed out that many TV shows go out of their way to remove or obscure brand names or logos.

"I was a volunteer when ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came to Colorado Springs...and we were tasked with REMOVING the labels and visible logos off all of the beverages (that had been donated)," wrote Bryan W.

Why not shove a hand in a Clarkman?

Michael G. took it one step further.

"The shot clearly shows an uncleared brand name product doing damage to a character. There could be a lawsuit if her brand of sweater was showing, even if it had nothing to do with the action, and showed no negative image of the product. Even if the sweater helped her save the world, still an actionable offense," he wrote.

And that goes back to a point I made yesterday. NBC easily could have avoided this mess by not showing a brand name at all or even better, making one up. NBC has done that before...and with a garbage disposal no less!

Kendall C. wrote in to remind me that in an episode of "Seinfeld," Kramer installs a garbage disposal in his shower. The name of the disposal? The fictitious Clarkman.

And Michael G. went on to write that he expected the two companies to settle out of court and that ironically enough, part of the settlement could involve more product placement for Emerson in future episodes of "Heroes."

If that's true, I'd hope NBC would be wise enough to, say, not show Claire the cheerleader blowing up her house by setting the temperature too high on one of Emerson's White-Rodgers 90 Series Blue Touchscreen Thermostats.

And readers, please don't try doing that at home.

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