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Bondi v. L.L. Bean, Inc.

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

June 28, 2018

VICTOR BONDI, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff
v.
L.L. BEAN, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Victor Bondi, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, has brought a five count putative class action complaint against defendant L.L. Bean, Inc. alleging: (1) violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq. (“MMWA”); (2) breach of express warranty; (3) violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (“ICFA”), 815 ILCS 505/2; (4) unjust enrichment; and (5) declaratory relief. Plaintiff seeks to represent a national class of all persons or entities who or that purchased goods from defendant prior to February 9, 2018, and an Illinois subclass consisting of all persons or entities who or that reside in Illinois and purchased goods from defendant prior to February 9, 2018. Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of standing, or in the alternative under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons described below, defendant's motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff claims that he is a loyal customer of defendant. According to the complaint defendant has built a brand on the basis of its “century-old warranty, ” which it touts as a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee” (the “old warranty”). Plaintiff claims to have purchased a pair of boots from defendant in 2017. He asserts that the warranty formed the basis of the bargain for all of his purchases.

         On February 9, 2018, defendant issued a statement to its customers. Three days later plaintiff filed the instant action alleging that this statement indicates that the old warranty would be “rescinded immediately and replaced with a limited one-year warranty subject to numerous exceptions and qualifications.” The complaint further alleges that “a new warranty had been made that would limit returns to one year after the date of purchase, and proof of purchase would be required.” Plaintiff claims that he and class members have been harmed by losing the benefit of their bargain because of “L.L. Bean's unilateral refusal to honor its warranty . . ..” Plaintiff seeks damages and an order that defendant honor the warranty. He also seeks declaratory relief and corrective advertising.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), arguing that plaintiff lacks standing to bring his claims. Under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must dismiss any action for which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Like a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 F.3d 838, 841 (7th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff, however, bears the burden of establishing that the elements necessary for jurisdiction, including standing, have been met. Id. at 841-42. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court may look beyond the allegations of the complaint and consider whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue of jurisdiction. Mutter v. Madigan, 2014 WL 562017, *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 13, 2014).

         Article III of the Constitution limits federal jurisdiction to certain cases and controversies. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). Article III standing has three elements: (1) the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact, an invasion of a legally protected interest that is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury must be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it must be redressable by a favorable decision. Id. at 560-61.

         Defendant argues that plaintiff has failed to establish that he has suffered a concrete and particularized injury because he has not alleged that he has tried to return any product that he purchased from defendant prior to February 9, 2018, let alone alleging that those efforts have been denied. Indeed, plaintiff has not alleged that he was or is dissatisfied with any product he purchased from defendant.

         Plaintiff counters that part of what he and the other putative class members paid for was the “100% Satisfaction Guarantee, ” and that he was injured when on February 9, 2018, defendant unilaterally repudiated that guarantee depriving plaintiff of the premium he paid for it. Relying on Muir v. Playtex Products, LLC, 983 F.Supp.2d 980, 986 (N.D. Ill. 2013), plaintiff argues that defendant's repudiation caused his injury, and that the injury may be redressed by money damages. In Muir, however, the plaintiff had alleged that but for the defendant's allegedly fraudulent statements he would not have purchased the product in question. Plaintiff makes no such allegation in the instant case - he has not alleged that he would not have purchased his boots had they come with a different warranty. Nevertheless, plaintiff argues that defendant's wrongful repudiation of the old warranty deprived him of a chance at a future benefit. He cites to Weigel v. Stork Craft Manufacturing, Inc., 2010 WL 3894386 (N.D. Ill. June 10, 2010), arguing that he can seek damages for the diminished value of the product he purchased. In Weigel, however, the plaintiff was allowed to seek damages because the product purchased, a crib, had been declared unsafe and consumers were told not to use it In the instant case, plaintiff is not alleging that his boots have a diminished value, or are not usable as a result of the alleged change in warranty. Therefore, he has not alleged that he personally has been injured in any way. Therefore, any injury that he may suffer, if at some point in the future he becomes dissatisfied with his boots, is purely speculative, conjectural, and hypothetical, and insufficient to establish Article III standing.

         Moreover, even if plaintiff could establish standing, the complaint also fails to state a claim. Because plaintiff has not alleged that he is dissatisfied with is boots or that he tried to exercise the old warranty and was rejected, his entire case rests on his claim that the February 9, 2018, statement was an anticipatory repudiation of the warranty. As noted, the complaint describes defendant's statement as claiming that the old warranty was “rescinded immediately and replaced with a limited one- year warranty subject to numerous exceptions and qualifications, ” and that “[o]n February 9, 2018, defendant announced that it would refuse to honor the warranty.” The complaint does not, however, actually quote the announcement. The actual language of the “Letter to Our Customers, ” which defendant has provided and with which the plaintiff agrees the court may consider, provides:

Since 1912, our mission has been to sell high-quality products that inspire and enable people to enjoy the outdoors. Our commitment to customer service has earned us your trust and respect, as has our guarantee, which ensures that we stand behind everything we sell.
Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.
Based on these experiences, we have updated our policy. Customers will have one year after purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase. After one year, we will work with our customers to reach a ...

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