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Ronat v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

November 12, 2008

MICHELLE RONAT, DAVID HENNEN, DONNA WILLIAMSON, ROBERTA GOLDSTONE, AND LORI ANNE DERITIS, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA, INC., KMART CORPORATION, AND JRA FURNITURE INDUSTRIES, LLC, A/K/A JRA CENTURY FURNITURE INDUSTRIES, CO., LTD., DEFENDANTS, AND PATRICIA IVEY AND JAMES SZEWCZYK, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, INTERVENOR PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA, INC., AND KMART CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS, AND MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA, INC., AND KMART CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JRA CENTURY FURNITURE INDUSTRIES, CO., LTD., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT, AND MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA, INC., AND KMART CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TAIWAN CENTURY ENTERPRISE CO., LTD.; DONGGUAN SHIN DIN METAL & PLASTIC PRODUCTS, LTD.; DONGGUAN SHIN CREST METAL & PLASTIC INDUSTRIES, LTD.; DONG GUAN XIN YANG METAL & PLASTIC PRODUCTS, CO., LTD.; AND TAIWAN GLASS INDUSTRY CORP., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

BACKGROUND

In this putative class action, Plaintiffs, who are purchasers of the "Victoria" model of "Martha Stewart Everyday" brand glass-top patio tables, claim that the glass tops of these tables spontaneously shatter during ordinary use. Plaintiffs originally sought damages, restitution, and injunctive relief on claims brought under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFA) against Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSO), Kmart Corporation (Kmart), and JRA Furniture Industries, LLC (JRA) (Counts I, II, III); for unjust enrichment against MSO, Kmart, and JRA (Counts IV, V, VI, VII, VII, IX); and for breach of implied warranty against Kmart and JRA (Counts X, XI) (see Amended Class Action Complaint at Doc. 19). On motions previously filed, Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claims against Kmart and JRA (Counts V, VI, VIII, IX) were dismissed. Additionally, the remaining claims against JRA (Counts III, XI), which is the alleged manufacturer of the tables, were stayed pursuant to JRA's notice of bankruptcy. In Count IV, Plaintiff Roberta Goldstone alleges unjust enrichment against MSO on behalf of herself and all those that purchased certain patio tables in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont, or West Virginia.*fn1 In Count VII, Plaintiffs David Hennen and Donna Williamson allege unjust enrichment against MSO on behalf of themselves and all those that purchased certain patio tables in Alaska, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, or Wisconsin. In Count X, Plaintiff Lori Anne DeRitis alleges breach of implied warranty of merchantability against Kmart on behalf of herself and all those that purchased certain patio tables in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, or Wyoming and cites to each state's statute governing the implied warranty of merchantability. Later, MSO and Kmart filed third-party complaints, which are not specifically relevant to the issue of class certification.*fn2

After a troubling split among Plaintiffs' counsel, this Court allowed Plaintiffs Patricia Ivey and James Szewczyk to intervene and appointed interim class counsel to proceed with an already scheduled mediation. Intervenor Plaintiffs assert implied warranty of merchantability and unjust enrichment claims (see Class Action Complaint-In-Intervention at Doc. 229). Specifically, they allege breach of implied warranty of merchantability against Kmart on behalf of themselves and all those who purchased a Victoria Table in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, or Texas (limited to purchasers of new Victoria Tables in the State of Texas), as "codified under the relevant state codes that were in effect at all times relevant." Plaintiff Ivey alleges unjust enrichment against MSO on behalf of herself and all those who purchased a Victoria Table in the states of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont, or West Virginia.

After the mediation failed, Plaintiffs' counsel and interim class counsel reconciled and filed a stipulation regarding class certification. The stipulation was intended to narrow the issues for the class certification hearing and to give defense counsel notice of exactly what claims Plaintiffs sought to certify and what individual claims would be pursued, if any, should class certification be denied.

After the class certification hearing, which was held July 21, 2008, the Court ordered supplemental briefing and a revised class definition.

After a treacherous procedural history and circuitous briefing on the issue of class certification,*fn3 it is now clear that Plaintiffs seek to certify the following subclasses under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3).

* The Victoria Implied Warranty Sub-Class: Under Count X of the Amended Class Action Complaint and Count I of the Class Action Complaint-In-Intervention, Plaintiff Lori Anne DeRitis and Intervenor Plaintiffs Patricia Ivey and James Szewczyk seek to represent all persons who purchased a Martha Stewart Everyday Victoria model tempered glass-top patio dining table (Victoria Table) from Kmart Corporation (Kmart) in the states of: (i) Colorado during the period July 27, 2002 through the present; (ii) Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas (limited to purchasers of new Victoria Tables in the State of Texas), Virginia, West Virginia, or Wyoming during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; (iii) Iowa or Oklahoma during the period July 27, 2000 through the present; or (iv) Mississippi or South Carolina during the period July 27, 1999 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the glass table top of their Victoria Table. These claims are asserted against Kmart only.

* Alternative Victoria Implied Warranty Sub-Class: Under Count X of the Amended Class Action Complaint and Count I of the Class Action Complaint-In-Intervention, Plaintiff Lori Anne DeRitis and Intervenor Plaintiffs Patricia Ivey and James Szewczyk alternatively seek to represent all persons who purchased a Victoria Table from Kmart in the states of: Pennsylvania during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; New Jersey during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; and Maryland during the period July 27, 2001 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the glass table top of their Victoria Table.

* The Victoria Unjust Enrichment Sub-Class Number 1: Under Count VII of the Amended Class Action Complaint, Plaintiffs David Hennen and Donna Williamson seek to represent all persons who purchased a Victoria Table from Kmart in the states of: (i) Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, or the District of Columbia during the period July 27, 2002 through the present; (ii) Georgia, Nevada, or New Mexico during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; (iii) Kentucky during the period July 27, 2000 through the present; or (iv) Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, or Wisconsin during the period July 27, 1999 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the glass table top of their Victoria Table. These claims are asserted against MSO only.

* The Victoria Unjust Enrichment Sub-Class Number 2: Under Count II of the Class Action Complaint-In-Intervention, Intervenor Plaintiff Patricia Ivey seeks to represent all persons who purchased a Victoria Table from Kmart in the states of:

(i) California during the period July 27, 2003 through the present; (ii) Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi, or Oklahoma during the period July 27, 2002 through the present; (iii) Nebraska during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; (iv) Iowa, Missouri, or West Virginia during the period July 27, 2000 through the present; or (v) Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, or Vermont during the period July 27, 1999 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the glass table top of their Victoria Table. These claims are asserted against MSO only.

* Alternative Unjust Enrichment Sub-Class: Under Count VII of the Amended Class Action Complaint and Count II of the Class Action Complaint-In-Intervention, Plaintiffs David Hennen and Donna Williamson and Intervenor Plaintiff Patricia Ivey alternatively seek to represent all persons who purchased a Victoria Table from Kmart in the states of: Georgia during the period July 27, 2001 through the present; Virginia during the period July 27, 2002 through the present; and New Jersey during the period July 27, 1999 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the glass table top of their Victoria Table.

* The Victoria Illinois Consumer Fraud Act Sub-Class: Under Counts I and II of the Amended Class Action Complaint, Plaintiff Michelle Ronat seeks to represent all persons who purchased a Victoria Table from Kmart in the State of Illinois during the period July 27, 2002 through the present, and who experienced the spontaneous shattering of the ...


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