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Siegel v. Shell Oil Co.

July 30, 2010

MICHAEL SIEGEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SHELL OIL COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:06-cv-00035-Amy J. St. Eve, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED APRIL 19, 2010

Before BAUER and SYKES, Circuit Judges, and GRIESBACH, District Judge.*fn1

Michael Siegel, like many Americans, didn't like the price he was paying for gasoline. So he sued five of the eight largest oil companies. Siegel moved for class certification, seeking relief under both the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act ("ICFA"), 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 505/2, and the common law doctrine of unjust enrichment. The district court denied class certification and entered summary judgment for the defendants. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Siegel initiated this consumer class action on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, asserting that the defendants acted in concert by manipulating refinery margins and capacity to reduce the nation's supply of gasoline, and that this manipulation caused him to purchase the defendants' branded gasoline at artificially inflated prices. Siegel testified at his deposition that he purchased gasoline out of necessity, and that when he needed to make his purchase, he looked to pricing, location, quality, and convenience as factors to consider in deciding where to go, with convenience being the number one factor in his determination. He also testified that he continued to purchase the defendants' gasoline after he believed the defendants were engaging in unfair conduct and that he could (and did) purchase gasoline from non-defendants.

Instead of bringing suit under antitrust law, Siegel brought suit under ICFA, contending the defendants' purported manipulation of the nation's supply of gasoline constituted an unfair practice that resulted in artificially inflated prices at the pump. Siegel also sought recovery under the common law theory of unjust enrich- ment, arguing that the defendants' intentional restriction of the nation's supply of gasoline unjustly inflated the price of gasoline throughout Illinois.

After first moving for certification of a nationwide class and multi-state classes or subclasses of retail gaso-line purchasers (which the district court denied), Siegel moved for certification of a class comprising only Illinois retail purchasers of gasoline, which the district court also denied. In denying class certification, the district court concluded that Siegel could not establish through common proof that the allegations against the defendants proximately caused harm to each member of the putative class. This court then denied Siegel's Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) Petition for Leave to Appeal.

Then, the district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Specifically, the district court held that Siegel could not prevail under his unfair practices claim because he failed to set forth sufficient evidence that but for the defendants' purportedly unfair conduct, he would not have purchased their gasoline. The district court reached its conclusion based on Siegel's deposition testimony, where he testified that many factors affected his gaso-line purchases, including necessity, price, location, quality of gasoline, convenience, and environmental concerns, and that during the relevant time period, he purchased gasoline from non-defendants. Further, Siegel testified that he did not change his gasoline purchasing habits but continued to purchase the defendants' gasoline even after he believed they were engaging in unfair conduct.

The district court also ruled that Siegel could not prevail on his unjust enrichment claim based on the defendants' conduct under ICFA, reasoning that because he could not establish a private cause of action under ICFA, unjust enrichment could not serve as the basis for liability.

Finally, the district court entered judgment in favor of the defendants on Siegel's deceptive practices claim under ICFA, his unjust enrichment claim sounding in quasi-contract, and his civil conspiracy claim. Siegel does not appeal these rulings.

II. DISCUSSION

ICFA "is a regulatory and remedial statute intended to protect consumers, borrowers, and business persons against fraud, unfair methods of competition, and other unfair and deceptive business practices." Robinson v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp., 775 N.E.2d 951, 960 (Ill. 2002). The elements of a claim under ICFA are: (1) a deceptive or unfair act or practice by the defendant; (2) the defendant's intent that the plaintiff rely on the deceptive or unfair practice; and (3) the unfair or deceptive practice occurred during a ...


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