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Buschle v. Coach, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 18, 2017

COACH, Inc., et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Brenda Buschle brought this action against Defendants Coach, Inc., Coach Services, Inc. (collectively referred to as “Coach”), and Greer Burns & Crain, Ltd. (“GBC”). (Dkt. No. 1 at 19.) Defendants Coach and GBC both separately move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on many theories[1], but the Court dismisses the case pursuant to Illinois's one refiling rule pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/13-217. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Motions to Dismiss [12], [15].


         The Court takes the following allegations from the Complaint and treats them as true for the purposes of this motion. See Gillard v. Proven Methods Seminars, LLC., 388 F. App'x 549 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Plaintiff Buschle owns and operates an online business out of her home in Cincinnati, Ohio selling new and used genuine designer handbags under the trade name Designer Handbags Rescue. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 1.) Until January 2016, Buschle used her website to sell discounted new and used handbags throughout the United States, including Coach handbags. (Id., ¶¶ 7, 9.) Buschle spent significant time and money investing in her reputation and generating traffic to her website. (Id., ¶ 12.) She was successful and consistently increased the business's revenues between 2012 and 2015. (Id., ¶ 14-16.)

         On behalf of Coach, GBC, a law firm, filed a lawsuit against several alleged counterfeiters, including Designer Handbag Rescue, in this district under Case No. 15-cv-2994 (J. Darrah). (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 4, 18.) In their complaint, GBC and Coach alleged that Buschle was one of the online counterfeiters who resided in China and sold “unauthorized and unlicensed counterfeit products” as a part of “an interrelated group of counterfeiters” who were all selling products with Coach's trademarks. (Id.) Defendants also filed an Ex Parte Motion for Entry of a Temporary Restraining Order, which included a Temporary Injunction, a Temporary Transfer of the Defendant Domain Names, a Temporary Asset Restraint, and Expedited Discovery. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 20.) Defendants further requested an ex parte order to seize Buschle's website under the Lanham Act. (Id.) On April 16, 2015, Defendants proceeded to take control of Buschle's domain name and website, locking Buschle out of the website and effectively shutting down her company's operations. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 22.) Defendants also posted statements on Buschle's website, such as: “This domain was previously held for the sale of alleged counterfeit COACH products.” (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 23-24.) Buschle alleges that her business remained shut down and that the statements remained on her website for more than 24 hours. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 28.) When Buschle contacted Coach, Coach voluntarily dismissed Designer Handbags Rescue and reactivated here website “within hours.” (Dkt. 16 at 2.)

         As a result of Defendants' actions, Buschle alleges that a number of customers returned or canceled orders. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 31.) Designer Handbags Rescue's average monthly revenues decreased by almost 50% in the second half of 2015 and profits were down to more than 45% per month as compared to 2014. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 34.) Ultimately, Buschle shut down Designer Handbags Rescue and her website in January 2016 after suffering “significant and irreparable damage” as a result of Defendants' actions against her and her company. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 35.)

         Buschle, represented by counsel, filed a complaint against Defendants in Hamilton County, Ohio on February 4, 2016 with the same claims she brings in the instant case. (Dkt. No. 16, Exhibit 1.) Buschle then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio asserting the same claims on April 14, 2016. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2, Exhibit 2.) On June 30, 2016, Buschle dismissed, without prejudice, her claims in state court. (Dkt. No. 16-3, Exhibit 3.) The Southern District of Ohio dismissed the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 16-4 at 11) (Bucshle v. Coach, Inc., et al., No. 16-471, Dkt. No. 28 (S.D.OH March 28, 2017)).


         A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face to survive a 12(b)(6) challenge. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible on its face when the complaint contains factual content that supports a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the harm. Id. The complaint should be dismissed only if the plaintiffs would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. See Visiting Nurses Ass'n of Southwestern Indiana, Inc. v. Shalala, 213 F.3d 352, 354 (7th Cir. 2000). In making the plausibility determination, the Court relies on its “judicial experience and common sense.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). For purposes of this motion, this Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013).


         Buschle sues Defendants GBC and Coach for Conversion, Defamation, Defamation Per Se, Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices under 815 ILCS 510, Violations of Lanham Act 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B), Tortious Interference with Business Relations, Attorneys' Fees, Punitive Damages, and Treble Damages. Buschle also sues Coach for Wrongful Seizure under Lanham Act 15 U.S.C. § 1116(d)(11). Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are granted because this is Buschle's third attempt to file the same claims and she is thus barred by the Illinois one refiling rule.

         Under the Illinois one refiling rule, “a plaintiff who voluntarily dismisses a suit ‘may commence a new action within one year or within the remaining period of limitation, whichever is greater.'” Carr v. Tillery, 591 F.3d 909, 914 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 735 ILCS 5/13-217). Plaintiffs are limited to one second bite at the apple, and no more; “[t]he Illinois courts interpret [Section 13-217] to mean that a plaintiff who voluntarily dismisses a lawsuit may commence only one new action.” Ibid. (collecting cases); see also Timberlake v. Illini Hosp., 676 N.E.2d 634, 636 (1997) (“This court has interpreted section 13-217 as permitting only one refiling even in a case where the applicable statute of limitations has not yet expired.”). This one-refiling rule applies in federal court “because it is a rule of preclusion, like res judicata; and a federal court is required to give full faith and credit to records of (including judgments in) state judicial proceedings.” Carr, 591 F.3d at 914 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Buschle voluntarily dismissed her initial state court case in Ohio. (Dkt. No. 16, Exhibit 1.) When she filed the same claims in the Southern District of Ohio, the district court dismissed Buschle's case for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 13 at 6.) Therefore, Defendants assert that Buschle's Complaint constitutes the third refiling of the same claims and her claims must be dismissed. See Carr, 591 F.3d at 914 (“[A] plaintiff who voluntarily dismisses a suit may commence only one new action.”) (emphasis in original) (collecting cases.) Buschle does not contest that these are the same claims that she already filed in Ohio, but argues that: (1) the rule does not apply when the initial action was filed in a foreign court and the second action was ...

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