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Suarez v. Playtex Products

July 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Jennifer Suarez and Julie Stanford (collectively, "plaintiffs") have filed an amended complaint on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated against defendant, Playtex Products, Inc. ("Playtex"), regarding Playtex's sales of "Fridge to Go," an insulated baby-bottle cooler used for storing and transporting milk. Plaintiffs allege that the vinyl fabric from which these coolers are constructed contains dangerous levels of lead and that Playtex marketed these products as being safe, despite its awareness of regulations prohibiting the use of lead in children's products and knowing that children who ingest lead suffer long-term injuries. Plaintiffs assert claims for violation of the consumer fraud statutes of forty-three jurisdictions (Count I), common law negligence (Count II), and unjust enrichment (Count III).

Before the court is Playtex's motion to dismiss the amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, Playtex's motion [#139] will be granted.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. For the purposes of a 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Brooks v. City of Chicago, 564 F.3d 830, 832 (7th Cir. 2009). In order to survive such a motion, the complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed. 929, 940 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Factual allegations must, however, "be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S. -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1953, 173 L.Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (stating that "Twombly expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Additionally, allegations of fraud are subject to the heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b), which requires a plaintiff to "state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). This means that the plaintiff must plead the "who, what, when, where, and how: the first paragraph of any newspaper story." DiLeo v. Ernst & Young, 901 F.2d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 1990).


Plaintiffs, purchasers of Playtex's "Fridge-to-Go" insulated coolers, allege that Playtex marketed these products as safe for children despite being aware of findings by the Center for Environmental Health ("CEH") that the coolers contained excessive levels of lead and despite knowing that children who ingest lead suffer long-term injuries. According to the complaint, CEH tested the coolers and found that they contained high levels-between 1,100 and 5,500 parts per million-of lead. CEH issued a press release with the findings and the recommendation that parents discard the coolers. CEH also informed Playtex of the test results.

Plaintiffs Suarez and Stanford filed the amended class action complaint on November 3, 2008. In it, plaintiffs contend that Playtex's sale of the lead-containing coolers (1) violated the consumer protection and unfair and deceptive trade practices statutes of forty-three jurisdictions, (2) was negligent, and (3) resulted in unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs seek damages in the amount of monies paid for the coolers and the cost of lead testing for plaintiffs' children and an order requiring Playtex to disgorge its unjust enrichment, as well as actual damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, costs, and attorneys' fees.


Playtex moves to dismiss each of three counts of plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

I. Plaintiffs' Consumer Fraud Claims (Count I)

Plaintiffs allege in Count I that Playtex violated the consumer protection statutes of 43 separate jurisdictions. As defendants point out, the plaintiffs, Suarez and Stanford, are residents of New York and California, respectively, and neither alleges injury in, or contact with, any jurisdiction other than New York or California. Plaintiffs argue that "whether Plaintiffs may represent a class bringing claims under the state consumer protection statutes of Illinois and the other states is a question for later class certification briefing." Pls.' Resp. at 5. Plaintiffs do not articulate, however, a basis on which their claims under the consumer protection statutes of any states other than New York and California can survive Playtex's motion. Plaintiffs' claims in Count I based on the consumer protection statutes of jurisdictions other than New York and California must therefore be dismissed for failure to state a claim. See, e.g., In re Flonase Antitrust Litig., 610 F. Supp. 2d 409, 418--19 (E.D. Pa. 2009) ("Because no named Plaintiff has alleged injury in Florida or sufficient contact with Florida, the named Plaintiffs have not stated a claim under Florida's consumer protection statute.").

As to plaintiffs' claims under the consumer protections statutes of New York and California-specifically, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349, Cal. Civ. Code § 1770(a)(19) (a provision of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act or "CLRA"), and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 (Unfair Competition Law or "UCL") and 17500 (False Advertising Law or "FAL")-Playtex argues that plaintiffs' allegations fail to meet the heightened particularity requirements of Rule 9(b). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply in federal court "irrespective of the source of subject matter jurisdiction, and irrespective of whether the substantive law at issue is state or federal." Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 85 S.Ct. 1136, 14 L.Ed. 2d 8 (1965)). Averments of consumer fraud generally must be pleaded with the same particularity as common law fraud. See, e.g., Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1125 (9th Cir. 2009) ("[W]e have specifically ruled that Rule 9(b)'s heightened pleading standards apply to claims for violations of the CLRA [Cal. Civ. Code § 1770] and UCL [Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200]."). Where, ...

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