Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stewart v. Ocean State Jobbers, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 10, 2018

KEVIN STEWART on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
OCEAN STATE JOBBERS, INC., ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 16)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         This case comes before the court pursuant to a putative class action Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1) filed by Kevin Stewart (“Stewart”) on July 28, 2017. Stewart alleges that the defendant, Ocean State Jobbers, Inc., d/b/a Ocean State Job Lot (“Ocean State”), sold Duracell batteries that were intended for the Asian market in its stores in the northeastern United States. On the basis of these allegations, Stewart alleges violations of consumer protection statutes in New York, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. See Compl. at 14, 16.

         On September 11, 2017, Ocean State filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 16) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that, with respect to the New York consumer protection claims, Stewart has failed to adequately allege that the packaging in question was materially misleading, or that he was materially misled by it. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) (Doc. No. 17) at 8-11. Ocean State further argues that Stewart lacks standing to bring claims pursuant to the consumer protection statutes of Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Id. at 11-14. In the alternative, Ocean State moved for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Motion to Dismiss at 1.

         For the reasons that follow, Ocean State's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 16) is granted. Stewart is granted leave to replead within twenty-one days of this Ruling.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim by making allegations that, if true, would show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (interpreting Rule 12(b)(6), in accordance with Rule 8(a)(2), to require allegations with “enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief” (alteration in original)). The court takes all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Crawford v. Cuomo, 796 F.3d 252, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). However, the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         To survive a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         II. FACTS[1]

         The facts alleged in this case are straightforward. The defendant, Ocean State, is a Rhode Island corporation with 127 retail stores located throughout the northeastern United States. Compl. at ¶¶ 1, 16. Stewart, a resident of New York, purchased a two-pack of Duracell C alkaline batteries, a four-pack of Duracell AA alkaline batteries, and a four-pack of Duracell AAA alkaline batteries from a New York Ocean State location. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15. The packaging for these batteries included an image of a pink bunny, and the advertising claims “LASTS LONGER . . . MUCH LONGER” and “UP TO 6X LONGER LASTING POWER.” Id. at ¶ 3. Stewart made this purchase based on his belief that Duracell batteries are “a top notch, top quality consumer product.” Id. at ¶ 15. When he purchased the batteries, Stewart believed that they were high quality Duracell alkaline batteries intended for the United States market. Id. at ¶ 25. He paid a premium price for the batteries. Id. After making the purchase, Stewart learned that Duracell intended the batteries he had purchased for the Asian market, not the United States market. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 15. Had Stewart known that the batteries in question were intended for sale on the Asian market, he would not have purchased them. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. New York Law Claims

         In his Complaint, Stewart alleges that Ocean State violated two sections of New York General Business Law: section 349, which prohibits “[d]eceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in this state, ” and section 350, which prohibits “[f]alse advertising in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce in the furnishing of any service in this state.” The New York Court of Appeals has held that “[t]he standard for recovery under General Business Law § 350, while specific to false advertising, is otherwise identical to section 349.” Goshen v. Mut. Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 98 N.Y.2d 314, 324 n.1 (2002). In order to prove liability under either section 349 or section 350, therefore, a plaintiff must prove the same three elements: “first, that the challenged act or practice was consumer-oriented; second, that is was misleading in a material way; and third, that the plaintiff suffered injury as a result of the deceptive act.” New World Sols., Inc. v. NameMedia Inc., 150 F.Supp.3d 287, 329 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Stutman v. Chem. Bank, 731 N.E.2d 608, 611 (N.Y. 2000).

         Ocean State does not dispute that the first factor, namely that the challenged practice was “consumer-oriented, ” has been adequately pled. However, Ocean State argues that Stewart has not plausibly alleged that the battery packaging in question was “misleading in a material way” because, first, Stewart has not alleged that the batteries are of inferior quality and, second, because Stewart has provided “no plausible basis from which to infer that the subject advertising claims are not equally true for U.S. markets” as they are for Asian markets. Def.'s Mem. at 8-9. Ocean State further argues that the statements in question, that the batteries “LAST LONGER . . . MUCH LONGER” and have “UP TO 6X LONGER LASTING POWER, ” are not materially misleading because they constitute non-actionable puffery. Id. at 10.

         The court agrees with Ocean State that the representations on the packages-- that the batteries “LAST LONGER . . . MUCH LONGER” and have “UP TO 6X LONGER LASTING POWER”--are not materially misleading as a matter of law because they constitute “mere puffery.” See id. The Second Circuit has defined puffery in an advertising context as “subjective claims about products, which cannot be proven either true or false.” Time Warner Cable, Inc. v. DIRECTV, Inc., 497 F.3d 144, 159 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Lipton v. Nature Co., 71 F.3d 464, 474 (2d Cir. 1995)). The Second Circuit has further cited with approval the Fifth Circuit's definition of puffery as “an exaggerated, blustering, and boasting statement upon which no reasonable buyer would be justified in relying.” Id. at 160 (quoting Pizza Hut, Inc. v. Papa John's Int'l, Inc., 227 F.3d 489, 497 (5th Cir. 2000)). With respect to the claim that the Duracell batteries “LAST[ ] LONGER . . . MUCH LONGER, ” the court concludes this statement is puffery: it is a vague, boastful statement which, in the absence of a point of comparison, [2] cannot be proven true or false, and a reasonable ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.