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Benson v. Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc.

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

February 28, 2018

CLARISHA BENSON and LORENZO SMITH, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FANNIE MAY CONFECTIONS BRANDS, INC., a Delaware Corporation Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L.ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Clarisha Benson and Lorenzo Smith purchased some delightful treats at two stores owned by Defendant Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. (“Fannie May”), and were saddened to discover upon opening their boxes of Mint Meltaways and Pixies that the boxes were not brimming with delectable goodies. Rather, the boxes were filled merely two-thirds of the way to their brims, leaving Benson and Smith twenty-four-cubic-inches or more short of satisfaction. Plaintiffs now bring this putative class action alleging that the candies in question did not simply melt or fly away as their names imply, but that Fannie May never placed them in the box in the first place and did so to trick potential consumers into believing they were receiving more candy than they really were. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (“ICFA”), 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. 505/1 et seq., and seeks injunctive relief (Count I) and damages (Count II). Plaintiffs also have two Illinois common-law claims for unjust enrichment (Count III) and breach of implied contract (Count IV). Fannie May moves to dismiss [11] the complaint in its entirety, arguing that Plaintiffs have not alleged a violation of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq., therefore all of their state-law claims are preempted and must be dismissed. Alternatively, Fannie May argues that Plaintiffs have not adequately pleaded the elements of their ICFA claim, that they lack standing to bring claims on behalf of purchasers of products Plaintiffs did not purchase, and that they lack standing to seek injunctive relief. Because the Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged a violation of the FDCA, the Court grants the motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. Additionally, the Court grants the motion to dismiss the injunctive relief claim because Plaintiffs do not adequately allege that they are likely to be injured in the future and the Court grants the motion to dismiss with respect to the products Plaintiffs did not purchase because they lack standing to bring those claims.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiffs purchased two 7 ounce, opaque boxes of candy from Fannie May for approximately $10 each. Upon opening the boxes, Plaintiffs realized that the boxes were not filled to the top, but contained between 33% and 40% of empty space. This empty space is called “slack-fill.” The candies Plaintiffs purchased were Mint Meltaways and Pixies. In addition to these candies, Fannie May also sells Hot Fudge Truffles, Peanut Butter Buckeyes, Sea Salt Caramels (Dark), Sea Salt Caramels (Milk), Pixies (“Bite Size”), Carmash (Milk), Carmash (Dark), and Trinidads (collectively, the “Non-purchased Products, ” and, with the Mint Meltaways and Pixies, the “Products”) in similar 7 ounce boxes. The Non-purchased Products also include substantial amounts of slack-fill, in all cases exceeding 33%. Plaintiffs, despite having not purchased any of these other candies, bring this putative class action on behalf of consumers who may have purchased them.

         Plaintiffs state that the slack-fill in these boxes has no functional purpose and therefore is misleading to consumers. They allege that had they known the Products contained large amounts of slack-fill, they would not have purchased them.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Rule 9(b) requires a party alleging fraud to “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). This “ordinarily requires describing the ‘who, what, when, where, and how' of the fraud, although the exact level of particularity that is required will necessarily differ based on the facts of the case.” AnchorBank, 649 F.3d at 615 (citation omitted). Rule 9(b) applies to “all averments of fraud, not claims of fraud.” Borsellino v. Goldman Sachs Grp., Inc., 477 F.3d 502, 507 (7th Cir. 2007). “A claim that ‘sounds in fraud'- in other words, one that is premised upon a course of fraudulent conduct-can implicate Rule 9(b)'s heightened pleading requirements.” Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Jurisdiction

         As a preliminary matter, the Court addresses its subject matter jurisdiction to hear this case. On December 19, 2017, the Court ordered the parties to submit briefs on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, because upon review of the complaint, the Court noted that it was not clear from the face of the complaint that such jurisdiction existed. Plaintiffs asserted federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). Under CAFA, federal courts have jurisdiction over a class action in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000 and “[a]ny member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). However, the Court shall decline to exercise that jurisdiction if “greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed, ” and at least one defendant is a citizen of that same state. Id. § 1332(d)(4).

         The complaint sufficiently alleged that the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000, but did not adequately allege diversity. The complaint alleged that Fannie May is an Illinois corporation and that all of the named plaintiffs were Illinois citizens. The complaint did state that at least one unnamed member of the putative class would be a non-Illinois resident, but this is insufficient to satisfy § 1332(d). See Toulon v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 877 F.3d 725, 733 (7th Cir. 2017) (simply stating that a member of a class of plaintiffs is from a different state than a defendant does not satisfy the requirement of minimal diversity). Furthermore, the complaint seeks damages arising only from sales at physical stores in Chicago, Illinois, and online, but makes no representation as to what percentage of those purchases were made by Illinois residents versus non-Illinois residents, making it impossible for the Court to determine whether § 1332(d)(4) required the Court to decline to exercise jurisdiction.

         The filing of Fannie May's response to the Court's December 19, 2017 Order rendered these issues moot. In that response, Fannie May stated that it is in fact not a citizen of Illinois, but is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio. See Toulon, 877 F.3d at 732 (allowing parties to provide additional facts by affidavit to establish subject matter jurisdiction). This fact changes the analysis above, as it is now clear that there is diversity sufficient to satisfy § 1332(d)(2) and § 1332(d)(4) is no longer implicated. Therefore, the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction and now turns to the substance of Fannie May's motion to dismiss.

         II. ...


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