Category Archives MMPA

In a so-called “slack-fill” case, Judge Laughrey issued an opinion denying Hershey Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class’s MMPA and unjust enrichment claims, which involve allegations that Reese's Pieces and Whoppers candy boxes improperly suggest that they contain more product than they actually do.  According to the opinion, consumers average a whopping 13 seconds making in-store purchasing decisions, further supporting the plaintiff’s contention that consumers attach significant importance to the size of candy boxes, and that he was misled to believe that he was purchasing more product than he actually received. The court rejected Hershey's argument that the MMPA claim was not plausible, reasoning that the MMPA has been interpreted as "cover[ing] every unfair practice imaginable and every unfairness. . . ."  What's more, a "plaintiff need not even allege or prove reliance on an unlawful practice to state a claim under the act."  Judge Laughrey concluded that the plaintiff…

Plaintiffs may not avoid removal under CAFA by amending their complaint after removal to restrict the class to nondiverse individuals, held the court in Pudlowski v. The St. Louis Rams, LLC, No. 4:16-CV-189-RLW, 2016 WL 5660237 (E.D. Mo. Sep. 29, 2016). In Pudlowski, Plaintiffs sued the Rams in a Missouri state court under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”), alleging that the Rams mislead them about the team’s future location and thus caused them to buy tickets, merchandise, and concessions. Id. at *1. Defendants removed the case to federal court under CAFA, the District Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion to remand back to state court, and Defendants then appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which remanded to the Eastern District of Missouri, instructing the District Court to weigh two declarations from alleged class members. Id. at *2. Under CAFA, federal district courts have jurisdiction over class actions only if (among other requirements) there…

We know the general rule that a Missouri Merchandising Practices Act ("MMPA") plaintiff cannot merely allege some undefined loss: the loss must be ascertainable, meaning the plaintiff must state an actual amount or a method for calculating the amount. Now add a corollary principle: not only must the loss be ascertainable, but whatever that amount is, it must constitute a net loss when measuring the difference between the actual or reasonable value of the product or service and the amount that plaintiff paid. That’s the takeaway from Cregan v. Mortgage One Corp., No. 4:16 CV 387 RWS, 2016 WL 3072395, at *5 (E.D. Mo. June 1, 2016). In Cregan, plaintiffs entered into a loan agreement with defendant that encumbered their real property. Id. at *1. After plaintiffs filed for bankruptcy, defendant filed a notice of claim that included a charge for $56,000 in “daily simple interest” due, and plaintiffs claimed that the…

Plaintiffs can no longer base Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”) claims on sales “puffery”—i.e., exaggerated statements upon which no reasonable consumer would rely, or vague or highly subjective claims of product superiority. That’s the message from Hurst v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., No. WD 78665, 2016 WL 1128297 (Mo. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2016). In Hurst, Plaintiffs alleged that Nissan violated the MMPA by making representations that “tended to create a false impression” about the quality of its “FX” sport utility vehicles, some of which developed dashboard bubbling from heat and humidity. Id. at *3. In particular, the FX’s marketing materials displayed FX dashboards and stated that the FX contained “premium automotive machinery” and “room for everything except compromise” and that the FX was “a superior product representing excellent value,” “uncompromising,” and “premium.” Id. at *4. The trial court certified a class of 326 Missourians who purchased Infiniti’s FX35 and…

To state an omission-based MMPA claim in federal court, a plaintiff may not rely on generic allegations that a defendant failed to disclose an alleged product defect. Nor may a plaintiff rely on prior consumer complaints as the basis for alleging that a defendant concealed a material fact. That’s the lesson from Johnsen v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 4:14CV594 RLW, 2016 WL 1242545 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 29, 2016). In that case, plaintiff claimed that Honeywell’s representations about its humidifiers’ quality, along with a five-year warranty, amounted to an actionable “unfair practice” under the MMPA where the humidifiers allegedly broke down repeatedly. On March 29, 2016, the Eastern District of Missouri ruled on defendant Honeywell International’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint, holding that bare allegations that defendants “knew, or reasonably should have known” that their products contained some defect and that they “concealed and failed to disclose such alleged…

In Perras v. H&R Block, No. 14-2892 (8th Cir. June 18, 2015), the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion regarding an issue that has yet to be addressed by the Missouri Supreme Court - to what extent does the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) apply to transactions outside of the state? In 2011, the IRS promulgated new regulations requiring tax professionals, at their own cost, to pass a certification exam and obtain a tax-preparer ID number before being authorized to submit federal tax returns.  H&R Block, the Kansas City-based "world largest tax services provider," decided to pass this cost onto its customers in the form of a nominal "Tax Preparer Compliance Fee." California resident Ronald Perras paid for his local H&R Block office to prepare his taxes in 2011 and 2012.  He subsequently sued the company in a Missouri federal court under the MMPA seeking to represent a nationwide class (with the exception of Missouri) based…

In a recent decision from the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Judge Whipple demonstrated that he is indeed “down with the chips” when it’s crunch time by granting Defendants’ 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the putative class claims asserted under the MMPA against Cape Code Potato Chip Company, Inc. and Snyder’s-Lance, Inc.    In her complaint, the class representative alleged that the sale of these tasty snacks violated the MMPA because they were falsely labeled as “all natural” and containing “no preservatives.”  As you may recall, a valid MMPA claim requires the plaintiff to allege: 1) the purchase of merchandise from the defendant; 2) for personal, family, or household purposes; and 3) ascertainable loss of money or property; 4) as a result of a practice proscribed by section 407.025.1 of the MMPA. After sinking his teeth into Defendants’ motion, Judge Whipple may have Ruffled a…

Plaintiff's lawsuit was essentially about octane. She claimed that an unfair practice occurs every time a consumer buys higher octane fuel from single-hose gas pump and incidentally receives a residual amount of lower octane fuel lingering in the hose from a prior fueling. In her single-count MMPA lawsuit, Plaintiff sought money and an injunction on behalf of a class of Missouri consumers who bought higher grade gasoline from the Defendants (retail-gas-station operators). Preemption posed a problem for Plaintiff. The federal Petroleum Marketing Practices Act expressly preempts state-law requirements regarding labeling and marketing of gasoline octane rating that are not "the same as" the PMPA's requirements. Although Plaintiff carefully omitted the word "octane" in her class-action complaint, Judge Kays held that federal law preempted her MMPA claim: Although Plaintiff has successfully avoided using the word “octane” anywhere in the Complaint, it does not change the fact that the essence of her…

Plaintiff fed his dog Beneful Healthy Weight dog food, and within two weeks, his dog was lethargic, incontinent, and hematuric (blood in urine).  The vet recommended a medicated dog food, and the symptoms disappeared. Plaintiff filed a putative class action under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), alleging that Purina misrepresented its Beneful brand dog food as "healthy," "wholesome," "nutritious," and "100% Complete Nutrition," and failed to disclose that the dog food caused, or carried the risk of, illness and death in a significant number of dogs. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, based on Twombly and Rule (9b).  The Court granted the motion (with leave to amend). On Twombly grounds, the Court found that the Complaint failed to set for a plausible claim -- specifically there was no causation alleged: Nothing in the Complaint alleges that the veterinarian diagnosed the bladder stones because of the certain type of dog food…

Hutsler stands for the proposition that a significant lapse of time between (1) advertising and sale of merchandise and (2) an alleged unfair practice will make it difficult for a plaintiff to satisfy the statutory requirement that latter be “in connection with” the former. In 2001, plaintiffs refinanced their home with Wells Fargo. Eleven years passed. In 2012, due to financial difficulty, plaintiffs couldn't make their payments.  Well Fargo foreclosed on plaintiffs' home. Plaintiffs sued, claiming that Wells Fargo violated the MMPA “in connection with the sale of the property and/or mortgage loan” based on the way Wells Fargo handled the 2012 foreclosure (e.g., failing to provide plaintiffs with loss mitigation opportunities, foreclosing on plaintiffs' home without explanation as to why they did not qualify for mortgage assistance; and making plaintiffs wait before answering their telephone calls, and transferring plaintiffs' calls). Wells Fargo moved to dismiss the MMPA claim, arguing…

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