Recently, a federal Judge in the Southern District of New York declined to certify a class of Adidas customers who brought suit over the quality of the athletic company’s allegedly defective running shoes, called the SpringBlade. The Court determined that the plaintiff failed to overcome predominance and ascertainability requirements, and specifically failed to demonstrate how all members were harmed by the sneakers.
Plaintiff Ruffo brought the consumer class action, alleging violations of the New York Deceptive Acts and Practices Act, the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, as well as claims for breach of both implied and express warranty and unjust enrichment. Ruffo moved for certification of a nationwide class of purchasers of Adidas’ SpringBlade sneakers, as well as a New York subclass consisting of all New York residents who purchased the allegedly defective running shoes.
Like many of its contemporaries on the market, Adidas attempted to separate itself from the pack with the SpringBlade sneaker, using cutting-edge technology and a unique physical make up. Plaintiff claimed though that the SpringBlade sneaker was defectively designed and manufactured because the midsole of the sneaker, made up of two pieces of semi-rigid plastic bonded together, was particularly “problematic” and prone to delamination. According to the Opinion, the sole was designed to function as a spring, but ended up peeling off from the bottom of the shoe.
After plaintiff experienced these issues with the sneakers following only a few days of limited use, he visited various online sources related to running equipment and learned that other purchasers experienced the same issues. Plaintiff claimed he attempted to contact Adidas, though no one responded to his complaints.
Adidas argued that certification was improper because each runner’s use of the shoe varies, and that the soles of almost all running shoes wear out over time. Additionally, Adidas pointed out that the claims are actually consumer fraud claims, masked as warranty claims, and thus were not eligible for certification under the relief requested.
The Court analyzed plaintiff’s arguments for certification, noting that plaintiffs bear the burden of providing an extensive analysis of state law variations to determine whether there are “insuperable obstacles” to class certifications. The Court found that there were. It determined that plaintiff failed to establish that the members of the class were entitled to damages, or even suffered any harm. Following only limited discovery, the Court noted, Adidas internal databases show a defect return rate of approximately 0.7%, which seriously undermines plaintiff’s argument that every single person who bought the SpringBlade experienced harm, at one time or another, due to the defect.
This Court’s decision is another example of the importance of ascertainability. As the Court noted, though it is not required to have all class members identified prior to class certification, “a class is not ascertainable when identifying its members would require a mini-hearing on the merits of each case.” Had the Court ruled differently it would have required extensive efforts to disprove the merits of each class member seeking certification. We will continue to monitor whether any consumer led actions against Adidas gain certification down the road.