Friday, November 18, 2022

Not In The Cards

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed with prejudice an action brought against a sports trading card company

Plaintiff Belinda Wheeler is an unhappy customer. She purchased several trading card boxes from defendant Panini America, Inc., a trading card company, with the hopes of entering the defendant’s contest, or “lottery”, to potentially win a rare, extremely valuable trading card. Indeed, on the outside of defendant’s trading card boxes is a notice that reads “No Purchase Necessary” to participate in the lottery—but to read the instructions about how to enter defendant’s contest, she had to purchase and open the trading card box. Had she been able to read the instructions for defendant’s contest on the outside of the product prior to purchasing it, plaintiff claims she would never have bought it in the first place.

Plaintiff now brings this putative class action against defendant, alleging violations of federal, D.C., and various other states’ consumer protection laws. Defendant moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. For the reasons below, plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

Purchase not necessary with a Catch 22

Without reading the instructions, consumers could not enter defendant’s contest to obtain redemption cards, with the result that they must first purchase the trading card box to enter. Id. ¶ 23. Nor could someone who wishes to read the fine print purchase the box, read the instructions, and return the product, because merchants do not allow customers to return opened trading card merchandise. 

No concrete injury for standing purposes

None of these theories for relief are premised on a concrete injury. First, plaintiff says that she suffered a “cognizable overpayment injury” because defendant omitted putting the NPN instructions on the outside of the box, fraudulently inducing her to buy its product to participate in the NPN lottery, see Pl.’s Opp’n at 4, but her naked allegation is unpersuasive. As multiple federal courts have held, plaintiff paid the purchase price for the value of the box of cards—not for the ability to enter the NPN lottery—so she got exactly what she paid for.

Dismissed with prejudice. (Mike Frisch)

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