D.C. Court Dismisses Consumer Product Lawsuit for Lack of Standing

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia handed down a case earlier this year, Johnson v. QUAKER OATS COMPANY, Dist. Court, Dist. of Columbia 2013, in which it reiterated the requirements regarding standing in order to bring a lawsuit.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the Quaker Oats Company for allegedly misleading him “about the nutritional and health qualities of its chewy granola bars and instant oatmeal products that contain partially hydrogenated oil.” The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s “wide-spread marketing campaign” touting the nutritional value of those products between November 1, 2005, and November 2010 “caused” him to pay a higher price for the products that he allegedly purchased from “various individuals” or “from a vendor in the District of Columbia.” He filed the lawsuit under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, claiming damages in excess of $90,000.

The Quaker Oats company filed a motion to have the case dismissed under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that plaintiff lacks standing, and under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Under the U.S. Constitution, in order to be able to file a lawsuit in federal court, claimants need to have the standing to do so, which is sometimes alternatively referred to as the “case or controversy” requirement.

As set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-561 (1992), foundational standing requires that the plaintiff demonstrate: (1) an injury in fact; (2) causation; and (3) redressability. Stated differently, the plaintiff must be able to allege a personal injury that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s unlawful conduct, which is likely to be redressed should the requested relief be granted. Lujan.

Under the statute that the plaintiff filed suit against Quaker, the plaintiff is only required to show ” payment for services and pecuniary harm as a result of [unlawful trade] practices.” However, the plaintiff in this case did not provide any dates, specific or approximate, regarding when he made the alleged purchases. Furthermore, according to public records accessed by the court, plaintiff was incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Virginia, from 2006 to 2010. Additionally, the court stated that the plaintiff was also reportedly in prison on November 1, 2005, which is the date on which he alleges defendant launched the misleading marketing campaign.

Therefore, the court said, “plaintiff’s implication that he purchased defendant’s products in the District of Columbia and thus suffered pecuniary injury simply strains credulity.”

Furthermore, under relevant federal statute, as a lay person, plaintiff cannot represent vendors or other consumers who may have purchased the supposed products. He therefore does not have the ability to represent anyone else’s claims either.

The court therefore held that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the suit, and granted the defendant’s motions to dismiss the complaint.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of a defective consumer product, you should contact the experienced products liability attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as possible in order to discuss your claim. Our firm has many years of experience in zealously representing individuals in the Washington, DC area who have suffered injuries due to defective or dangerous products. Call us today in order to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You can contact us by calling (800) 654-1949 or through this website.

More Blog Posts:

D.C. Circuit Court Refuses Motion for Summary Judgment Against Whole Foods in Slip and Fall Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 21, 2013
Johnson & Johnson Reportedly Set to Pay $4 Billion in Hip Replacement Settlement, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 12, 2013

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