United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
BENJAMIN T. PERSHOUSE, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
L.L. BEAN, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Benjamin Pershouse (“Pershouse” or
“plaintiff”) brings this putative class action
against L.L. Bean, Inc. (“L.L. Bean” or
“defendant”). Pershouse alleges that L.L. Bean
rescinded its well-known “100% Satisfaction
Guarantee” (“Satisfaction Guarantee” or
“the Guarantee”) by inserting new conditions for
its return policy and then applying them retroactively to
purchases made under the original policy. Pershouse claims,
among other things, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and
unfair or deceptive practices in violation of M.G.L. c. 93A.
He also seeks to certify a nationwide class of similarly
situated individuals, as well as a subclass of individuals in
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
before this Court are defendant's 1) motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim and 2) motion to strike the
nationwide class claims from the class action complaint.
is a resident of Woburn, Massachusetts. L.L. Bean is a Maine
corporation headquartered in Freeport, Maine. The company was
founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean and specializes in the
manufacture and sale of clothing, footwear and outdoor
recreation equipment. For decades, L.L. Bean has publicized
and been renowned for its Satisfaction Guarantee, which
if something's not working or fitting or standing up to
its task or lasting as long as you think it should, we'll
take it back.
return and exchange policy contained no explicit time limits
or other conditions, and plaintiff asserts that it formed
part of the benefit of the bargain for purchasers of L.L.
Bean products . . . [and] has become almost entirely
intertwined with the L.L. Bean brand.
alleges that L.L. Bean marketed its Satisfaction Guarantee
for years, including in signs displayed prominently in L.L.
Bean stores and outlets, on its website and in its catalogs.
November, 2012, Pershouse bought a pair of women's indoor
slippers through L.L. Bean's website. He alleges that
“[a]fter a few years of indoor use, the rubber soles of
the slippers began to flake off in large chunks”. He
does not explicitly allege that the slippers were defective
or that he was actually dissatisfied with the quality of the
slippers. Nor does he indicate precisely when the soles of
the slippers began to break off in pieces.
February, 2018, the Executive Chairman of L.L. Bean posted a
letter to the L.L. Bean Facebook page announcing that it was
updating its Satisfaction Guarantee in response to perceived
abuse by certain customers. The letter explained that:
[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 fair solution if a product
is defective in any way.
letter included a link to the full return policy. The full
policy contained “Special Conditions” in which
L.L. Bean would not accept returns or exchanges in certain
situations, including: 1) “[p]roducts damaged by
misuse, abuse, improper care or negligence, or accidents
(including pet damage)”; 2) “[p]roducts showing
excessive wear and tear”; 3) “[p]roducts lost or
damaged due to fire, flood, or natural disaster”; 4)
“[p]roducts with a missing label or label that has been
defaced”; 5) “[p]roducts returned for personal
reasons unrelated to product performance or
satisfaction”; and 6) “[o]n rare occasions, past
habitual abuse of our Return Policy”. That letter was
also emailed to some former L.L. Bean customers, including
March, 2018, more than five years after Pershouse purchased
the slippers from L.L. Bean's website, he attempted to
return them to an L.L. Bean store in Burlington,
Massachusetts. Although plaintiff presented a proof of
purchase to the manager of the store, she refused to accept
the return of the slippers because she found they were not
defective. Plaintiff alleges that her determination was
“erroneous” but does not otherwise explain 1) how
the slippers were defective, 2) why he waited so long to
return them or 3) that he was actually dissatisfied with the
quality of the slippers. Rather, plaintiff submits ...