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Fullerton v. Corelle Brands, LLC

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

September 30, 2019

TRICIA FULLERTON, et al., Plaintiffs,
CORELLE BRANDS, LLC previously d/b/a World Kitchen, LLC, et al., Defendants. MARCIA SCHUTTE, et al., Plaintiffs,
CORELLE BRANDS, LLC previously d/b/a World Kitchen, LLC, et al., Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         This consolidated class action involves seven plaintiffs from six different states suing Defendants Corelle Brands LLC, f/k/a World Kitchen, LLC, and Corelle Brands Holdings Inc., f/k/a WKI Holding Company, Inc. (collectively, “Corelle”) for various claims arising from the allegedly defective manufacturing of Pyrex glassware. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants also move to strike portions of the Consolidated Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f).

         For the reasons explained below, this Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

         I. Background

         A. The Parties

         This putative class action arises from a change in the glass used to manufacture Pyrex glassware (the Products). The following facts come from Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, [26], and are accepted as true.[1]

         Defendants currently manufacture and market the Products. Id. ¶ 28. Corning Incorporated originally developed and manufactured the Products. Id. ¶¶ 20-23. Although Corning no longer manufacturers the Products, it licenses the Pyrex name to Corelle. Id.

         Beginning in the early 1900s, Corning manufactured the Products using borosilicate glass. Id. ¶ 34. This glass is extremely resistant to thermal shock caused by sudden temperature changes. Id. ¶¶ 4, 35-37. For that reason, when manufactured using borosilicate glass, the Products are ideal for cooking because the same glass container can be used for cooking and serving without shattering, which does not hold true of most glassware. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Capitalizing on this fact, Corning advertised the Products as being suitable for use from the “ice-box to oven” and to “Bake in a glass!” Id. ¶¶ 64-66. Eventually Pyrex bakeware became a “household name” and gained a strong reputation among consumers. Id. ¶ 3.

         Plaintiffs are consumers living in multiple states: New York, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Id. ¶¶ 13-19. Plaintiffs purchased or received the Products and used them for cooking. Id. ¶¶ 92-118. When Plaintiffs used the Products, they experienced thermal breakage and the Products shattered. Id. Plaintiffs allege that the Products suffer from a latent defect. Id. ¶¶ 5, 9. Based upon this alleged defect, Plaintiffs assert various contract, consumer protection, and unjust enrichment claims. Id. ¶¶ 135-466. None allege personal injury. Id.

         B. The Switch from Borosilicate Glass to Soda Lime Glass

         At some point starting “several decades ago, ” id. ¶ 38, Corning, and later Corelle, began manufacturing the Products using soda lime glass instead of borosilicate, id. Significantly, soda lime glass has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than borosilicate glass. Id. ¶¶ 42-46. Practically speaking, this means that soda lime glass expands more when heated. Id. ¶ 44. In turn, Plaintiffs allege that because soda lime glass expands more when heated, it is significantly more prone to shattering or breaking when exposed to rapid temperature changes, such as moving an item from the oven to the countertop. Id. ¶¶ 43-46. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that the likelihood of soda lime Pryex shattering increases with use over time. Id. ¶¶ 47-49.

         To make the soda lime more glass more heat resistant, Defendants temper the glass. Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiffs allege that the tempering process: (1) increases the risk of breakage when consumers use the Product over time; (2) causes the glass to shatter rather than “dicing” into safer, small pieces when it breaks; and (3) increases the risk that broken glass will “fly through the air” due to the process' creation of internal tension in the glass. Id. ¶¶ 52-58.

         Although soda lime glass remains more prone to thermal breakage than borosilicate glass, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to inform consumers that they fundamentally changed the Products. Id. ¶¶ 1-9, 86-91. Instead, Plaintiffs allege Defendants continued to advertise the Products in the same manner they had previously to create an impression that the Products had not changed; thereby continuing to capitalize on Pyrex's strong consumer reputation earned from the borosilicate products' performance. Id.

         C. Relevant Representations

         Plaintiffs identify several relevant representations that they believe became part of the bargain when they purchased the Products. Plaintiffs allege Defendants represented that:

• Where Defendants do disclose the Products are made from soda lime glass (on an online FAQ), they represent that soda lime glass provides the same high-quality performance as borosilicate glass. Id. ¶ 7 n.3.
• The Products as currently manufactured are versatile. Id. ¶ 67.
• The Products as currently manufactured are dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, and pre-heated oven safe. Id.
• The Products as currently manufactured can be used for cooking, baking, warming, and reheating food in microwaves, ovens, and preheated conventional or convection ovens. Id. ¶ 90.

         Plaintiffs claim that the Products as currently manufactured are inherently incapable of meeting Defendants' representations. Id. ¶¶ 34-58, 69-70.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss-Rule 12(b)(6)

         Defendants seeks to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). To analyze a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court must construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, accept as true all well-pleaded facts, and draw reasonable inferences in their favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013); Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 863 (7th Cir. 2010). Statements of law, however, need not be accepted as true. Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court's consideration to “allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013).

         To survive Defendants' motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. For a claim to have facial plausibility, a plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim for relief depends on the complexity of the case, but threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. Of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803-04 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Finally, if the claims of the putative class do not have a class representative to assert them, those claims must be dismissed. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 349 (2011); E. Tex. Motor Freight Sys., Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 403 (1977).

         B. Motion to Strike-Rule 12(f)

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), “a district court ‘may strike from the pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.'” Geary v. Maryville Acad., No. 12 C 1720, 2012 WL 2129228, at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2012) (quoting Delta Consulting Group, Inc. v. R. Randle Const., Inc., 554 F.3d 1133, 1141 (7th Cir. 2009)). Motions to strike are generally disfavored but are nevertheless appropriate when “they serve to expedite litigation.” Id. (citing Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder, 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Standing

         Although Defendants did not challenge standing, this Court has an independent obligation to consider whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this case. Joyce v. Joyce, 975 F.2d 379, 386 (7th Cir. 1992). The Constitution prohibits this Court from exercising jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claim when the plaintiff has not alleged facts demonstrating he or she has standing. Lujan v. Def. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); see also Carello v. Aurora Policemen Credit Union, 930 F.3d 830, 833 (7th Cir. 2019) (“The doctrine of standing imposes a non-negotiable limit on the power of a federal court.”). Indeed, establishing standing is not a “mere pleading requirement but rather an indispensable part of the plaintiff's case.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. When a plaintiff fails to demonstrate standing, courts lack authority to decide the merits of his or her case. Meyers v. Nicolet Rest. of De Pere, LLC, 843 F.3d 724, 726 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Freedom From Religion Found., Inc. v. Zielke, 845 F.2d 1463, 1467 (7th Cir. 1988)). Standing requires, among other things, that the plaintiff suffered an injury in fact. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560.

         With this background in mind, this Court turns to whether Plaintiffs Simon and Fullerton possess standing to assert their claims. Both individuals base their claims upon the failure to receive the benefit of the bargain. [26] ¶¶ 94, 108. In other words, Plaintiffs seek damages meant to give them the benefit they expected to receive from the contract they made with Defendants. E. Allen Farnsworth, Legal Remedies for Breach of Contract, 70 Colum. L. Rev. 1145, 1147-48 (1970).

         Yet neither Plaintiff Simon nor Plaintiff Fullerton purchased the Products. [26] ¶¶ 92, 103. Plaintiff Fullerton's boyfriend purchased her Pyrex, and Plaintiff Simon received Pyrex as a gift. Id. Because neither individual purchased the Products, neither Plaintiff failed to receive the benefit of the bargain as they did not strike a bargain with Defendants by purchasing the Products. For this reason, this Court must dismiss their claims for lack of standing. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 563 (in order to establish injury to confer standing, the plaintiff must be among the injured) (quoting Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 734 (1972)).

         Consequently, this Court dismisses all of Plaintiffs Simon's and Fullerton's claims without prejudice. Additionally, because Plaintiff Simon is the only class representative asserting claims based upon Michigan law, Plaintiffs' claims asserting violations of Michigan law are dismissed because the putative class claims cannot proceed without a class representative, Wal-Mart Stores, 564 U.S. at 49; E. Tex. Motor Freight Sys., 431 U.S. at 403 (1977), this claim cannot proceed.

         B. Express Warranty Claims

         Turning now to the individual claims, this Court first analyzes the remaining Plaintiffs' contract claims.

         1. Scope of the Warranty

         Plaintiffs allege Defendants sold the Products with several express warranties attached. [26] ¶¶ 140, 161, 179, 197, 215, 232, 249; [45] at 23-24. Defendants contest the existence of some express warranties, challenge that they did not breach others, and argue that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for some of ...

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