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Gs Tiffany Boundas and Dorothy Stojka, Individually v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

March 7, 2012

GS TIFFANY BOUNDAS AND DOROTHY STOJKA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF A CLASS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ABERCROMBIE & FITCH STORES, INC., AN OHIO CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Tiffany Boundas and Dorothy Stojka brought this putative class action in the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois, against Defendant Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., alleging breach of contract and violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act ("OCSPA"), Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1345.01 et seq. Abercrombie removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1453(b), premising jurisdiction on the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). On Abercrombie's motion, the court dismissed the OCSPA claims because the transactions at issue involved non-Ohio consumers and otherwise lacked a substantial connection to Ohio. 2011 WL 1676053 (N.D. Ill. May 2, 2011). Plaintiffs then moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that dismissal of the OCSPA claims reduced the matter in controversy below CAFA's jurisdictional minimum of $5 million. The court denied the motion. 2011 WL 5903495 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2011).

Now before the court is Plaintiffs' amended motion for class certification of the contract claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Plaintiffs seek certification of the following nationwide class:

All people who received Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. promotional gift cards in hard copy stating "no expiration date" issued as part of a 2009 winter holiday in-store promotion and voided by Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. on or after January 30, 2010 despite having credit remaining on the gift cards.

Doc. 58 at 1. For the reasons that follow, class certification is granted, though Plaintiffs' proposed class definition is modified and only Boundas will serve as a class representative. See In re Motorola Sec. Litig., 644 F.3d 511, 518 (7th Cir. 2011) ("a district court has the authority to modify a class definition at different stages in litigation"); Powers v. Hamilton Cnty. Pub. Defender Comm'n, 501 F.3d 592, 619 (6th Cir. 2007) ("district courts have broad discretion to modify class definitions, so the district court's multiple amendments merely showed that the court took seriously its obligation to make appropriate adjustments to the class definition as the litigation progressed").

Discussion

Abercrombie is a clothing retailer with stores across the United States. In a December 2009 promotion, Abercrombie gave a $25 promotional gift card to customers who bought at least $100 of merchandise in a single transaction. Stojka purchased merchandise at an Abercrombie store in Oak Brook, Illinois, and received promotional gift cards with a cumulative value of $75. The cards state: "This gift card is redeemable at all Abercrombie & Fitch . locations, Abercrombie.com and abercrombiekids.com. . No expiration date." Stojka gave her cards to Boundas, who was with Stojka at the time. Boundas attempted to redeem the cards at the Oak Brook store some months later, in April 2010, but the store declined, explaining that Abercrombie had voided the cards on or around January 30, 2010, eliminating all remaining value on them. That might appear to be a poor way for a national retailer to treat its customers, but Abercrombie explains that each card was enclosed in a sleeve expressly saying: "$25 gift card expires 1/30/10." Doc. 62 at 3.

To be certified, a proposed class must satisfy the four requirements of Rule 23(a): "(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims and defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). If Rule 23(a) is satisfied, the proposed class must fall within one of the three categories in Rule 23(b), which the Seventh Circuit has described as: "(1) a mandatory class action (either because of the risk of incompatible standards for the party opposing the class or because of the risk that the class adjudication would, as a practical matter, either dispose of the claims of non-parties or substantially impair their interests), (2) an action seeking final injunctive or declaratory relief, or (3) a case in which the common questions predominate and class treatment is superior." Spano v. Boeing Co., 633 F.3d 574, 583 (7th Cir. 2011). Plaintiffs seek to certify only a Rule 23(b)(3) class, so the two other categories will not be addressed. Finally, the class must be "identifiable as a class," meaning that the "class definitions must be definite enough that the class can be ascertained." Oshana v. Coca-Cola Co., 472 F.3d 506, 513 (7th Cir. 2006).

The putative class representative bears the burden of showing that each requirement is satisfied. See Retired Chi. Police Ass'n v. City of Chi., 7 F.3d 584, 596 (7th Cir. 1993). "Failure to meet any one of the requirements of Rule 23 precludes certification of a class." Harriston v. Chi. Tribune Co., 992 F.2d 697, 703 (7th Cir. 1993). Although "as a general principle, a court is not allowed to engage in analysis of the merits in order to determine whether a class action may be maintained[,] ... the boundary between a class determination and the merits may not always be easily discernible," and "the class determination generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause of action." Retired Chi. Police, 7 F.3d at 598-99 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011) (class certification analysis "[f]requently . will entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim"). As the Seventh Circuit explained, "a district court must make whatever factual and legal inquiries are necessary to ensure that requirements for class certification are satisfied before deciding whether a class should be certified, even if those considerations overlap the merits of the case." Am. Honda Motor Co. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 815 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Kartman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 634 F.3d 883, 889-90 & n.6 (7th Cir. 2011). The Seventh Circuit has instructed district courts to exercise "caution" before certifying a class. Thorogood v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 547 F.3d 742, 746 (7th Cir. 2008).

I. Rule 23(a)

A. Rule 23(a)(1): Numerosity

Numerosity is not disputed, as Abercrombie voided nearly 200,000 promotional gift cards.

B. Rule 23(a)(4): Adequacy

The Rule 23(a)(4) adequacy inquiry "consists of two parts: (1) the adequacy of the named plaintiffs as representatives of the proposed class's myriad members, with their differing and separate interests, and (2) the adequacy of the proposed class counsel." Gomez v. St. Vincent Health, Inc., 649 F.3d 583, 592 (7th Cir. 2011). Abercrombie does not challenge class counsel, and the court independently has determined ...


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