A consumer who claimed he was tricked into promoting an online game, only to see his motivation in the form of extra lives disappear, can move forward with his lawsuit, an Illinois federal court has ruled.

To score additional lives in the wildly popular mobile app game Candy Crush, Zachery Liston linked his game account to his Facebook account. This allowed his friends on the social networking site to donate extra “lives” in the game to Liston if they downloaded the game.

Although Liston received donated lives when some of his friends installed Candy Crush based on his promotion, the maker of the game then removed the lives, according to his complaint. The suit, filed against King.com, stated claims for breach of implied contract, unjust enrichment, and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the consumer protection statutes of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

King moved to dismiss. After first determining that Liston had standing to bring the action, U.S. District Court Judge John J. Tharp Jr. determined that Liston adequately stated a claim and denied the defendant’s motion.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that Liston failed to allege an injury in fact because he played Candy Crush for free, received the donated lives at no cost, and never purchased anything from King.

Players of Candy Crush can purchase additional lives in the game at a cost of 99 cents for five lives (or roughly 20 cents per life), the court noted. As such, Liston was able to put a dollar amount on his alleged loss. He also alleged that the donated lives were effectively compensation for his “social marketing of King’s brand” when he asked his Facebook friends to download the game.

“The complaint alleges, plausibly enough, that Candy Crush lives have actual economic value; they are available for purchase at a particular price and King compensates players for marketing the game by facilitating the receipt of Donated Lives,” Judge Tharp wrote. “King’s argument that an asset that is able to sell for 20 cents has no inherent value is untenable; that the game provides a mechanism by which players may also receive such assets for free in exchange for activities that King values does not change that basic fact.”

Liston plainly has standing to complain that he lost those assets by reason of King’s conduct, whether that conduct is labeled as fraud, theft, conversion or some other legal theory, the court said.

The complaint “is sufficient to put King on notice of the essential nature of his claim: King injured Liston by preventing him from using an asset in which he had a property interest,” the court wrote. “The precise legal theory, or theories, on which such a claim may be premised, will be determined not at this stage, but during discovery, in advance of summary judgment and/or trial.”

To read the memorandum opinion and order in Liston v. King.com, Ltd., click here.

Why it matters: While the defendant told the court that the plaintiff lacked an injury and failed to state a claim based on his free use of the game and the fact that his friends donated lives, the judge agreed that Liston plausibly alleged that he received the lives in return for his “social marketing” of the game. The plaintiff was also able to put a value on his loss, since lives could be purchased for a price.