In the last remaining case of multidistrict litigation alleging that Sears, Roebuck & Co. misled consumers by advertising its line of Craftsman tools, now mostly made abroad, as manufactured in the United States, a federal court has dismissed a count brought under federal warranty law and denied the plaintiff’s motion to certify a statewide class of claimants. In re: Sears, Roebuck & Co. Tools Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 1703, Greenfield v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 05 C 4744 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill., E. Div., decided March 22, 2012).
According to the court, “Made in the USA” is not a “written warranty” “because it does not affirm or promise that the material or workmanship is defect-free or will perform at a specified level over a specified time,” elements of a cause of action under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he should be permitted to pursue the claim as a breach of implied warranty under the Act, finding that the plaintiff had not alleged this claim in his complaint and it was too late to permit an amendment. The court also noted that the phrase “Made in the USA” could not be both an express and an implied warranty.
The court refused to certify a class to pursue the state-law based claims, finding that the putative class is overbroad and the plaintiff failed to satisfy Rule 23’s typicality and predominance requirements. According to the court, because each individual plaintiff would have to show that the alleged “Made in the USA” misrepresentation caused him or her damage, each claim would require individualized proof of reliance. The court also agreed with the defendant that the litigation involved thousands of different products, each of which was individually advertised, marketed and labeled over a period of 10 years, which would require individualized evidence as to causation. The court set a status hearing for April 28, 2012.