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April 2013

Orange County Team Secures Dismissal of Nationwide Class Action Against Online Retailer

Doug Smith and Tara Martin (OC) secured the dismissal of a nationwide class action, pending against their client in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in which plaintiff consumer sought several million dollars of customer refunds to the class. Plaintiff had purchased jewelry items on client's website but later returned them, and then claimed that she had been denied the benefit of client's published "100% Money Back Guarantee" when she was charged a re-stocking fee and denied a refund of her shipping charges, which totaled approximately 40% of her gross purchase expense.

Plaintiff contended that the re-stocking fee and refund policy were not part of her contract with the client because they appeared on pages of the website different from that on which the Money Back Guarantee appeared, and that she had not seen them before purchasing.  A motion to deny class certification was filed, which required the electronic reconstruction of the client's website as it had appeared over a 4 year statutory period.

Based on the potential for different website surfing experiences by different consumers, and different exposures to the website's content, the District Court held that plaintiff's claim was not demonstrably typical of the proposed class and that the class claims were not based on common questions of law and fact. The ruling leaves undecided the nature of the contract between an internet purchaser and seller where the terms of purchase and sale are found on multiple website pages.



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