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Cappalli v. BJ's Wholesale Club

United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island

November 7, 2012, Decided; November 9, 2012, Filed

C.A. No. 10-407 S

Opinion

 [*187]  ORDER

WILLIAM E. SMITH, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Irene Cappalli filed this putative class action against Defendant BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. ("BJ's"), alleging breach of contract and, in the alternative, an equitable claim of money had and received.

I. Facts

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. BJ's is a corporation that owns and operates warehouse club stores. BJ's offers twelve-month memberships for a fee.1 In exchange for payment of the membership fee, members are provided the opportunity to purchase merchandise from BJ's stores at ostensibly low prices. While non-members are permitted to shop at BJ's stores, their purchases are generally subject to a 15% surcharge.  [**2] (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Def.'s SUF") ¶¶ 32-33, ECF No. 47.) At the expiration of their memberships, members are given a fifteen-day "grace period" during which they may make purchases at BJ's stores without paying any surcharge. (Atkinson Aff. ¶ 13, ECF No. 45.) BJ's policy concerning renewal memberships is the basis of this suit.

Cappalli became a BJ's member on November 11, 2005 through a free sixty-day trial membership. (Def.'s SUF ¶ 12C.)2 Because BJ's extends membership expiration dates until the last day of the month in which membership expires, Cappalli's  [*188]  trial membership expired on January 31, 2006. (Id. at ¶¶ 13C-14C.) Cappalli purchased renewal memberships at the membership desk of the BJ's store in Coventry, Rhode Island on March 26, 2006, February 15, 2007, February 2, 2008, and February 12, 2009. (Ex. D to Atkinson Aff., ECF No. 45-4.) Each of these renewal memberships expired the following January 31. Cappalli renewed her BJ's membership for the final time on February 27, 2010. (Id.) This  [**3] time, Cappalli made her purchase online. (Def.'s SUF ¶ 25.) Cappalli received a printed confirmation indicating that her membership would expire in "01/2011."3 (Ex. B to Renshaw Aff., ECF No. 46-3.) Cappalli never made any purchases between the expiration of her prior membership and her purchase of a renewal membership, and, thus, she never paid a surcharge at BJ's. (Def.'s SUF ¶ 36.)

When Cappalli joined BJ's in 2005, BJ's "Core Membership Privileges and Conditions" ("P&C's") provided, "[m]embers who renew their Memberships during their expiration month, or within three (3) months after the expiration month, will retain their current expiration month for the renewed year. Memberships renewed more than three (3) months after their original expiration date are subject to new Membership expiration dates at BJ's discretion" ("renewal policy"). (Ex. A to Atkinson Aff., ECF No. 45-1.) Because Cappalli renewed her membership in March 2006, less than three months after the expiration of her prior membership, she retained her prior expiration date of January 31. In April 2008, BJ's shortened its renewal policy from three months to one month. (Def.'s SUF ¶ 10.) Also at this time, BJ's revised its P&C's to omit the description of its renewal policy. (Ex. B to Atkinson Aff., ECF No. 45-2.) In September 2010,  [**5] BJ's adopted a two-month renewal policy and revised its P&C's to include a description of that policy. (Ex. C to Atkinson Aff., ECF No. 45-3.) All three iterations of the P&C's, in a separate section drawing no distinction between initial and renewal memberships, provided, "[m]embership is effective for one year from enrollment." (Exs. A-C to Atkinson Aff.) Throughout Cappalli's membership, BJ's membership desk personnel were instructed to provide a copy of the P&C's to anyone who purchased a membership. (Def.'s SUF ¶ 8.)

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904 F. Supp. 2d 184 *; 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160851 **; 2012 WL 5472163

IRENE CAPPALLI, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. BJ'S WHOLESALE CLUB, INC., Defendant.

Prior History: Cappalli v. BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70338 (D.R.I., June 29, 2011)

CORE TERMS

membership, renewal, renewal policy, expiration, summary judgment, ambiguous, affirmative defense, parties, voluntary payment, twelve month, terms, summary judgment motion, expiration date, equitable, questions, benefits, quotation, damages, marks, money had and received, date of purchase, renewal term, notice, genuine issue, manifestations, Undisputed, cases, contractual agreement, unjust enrichment, mistake of fact

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Motions for Summary Judgment, Cross Motions, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Affirmative Defenses, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contract Formation, Acceptance, Meeting of Minds, Intent, Ambiguities & Contra Proferentem, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Elements of Contract Claims, Remedies, Judgments, Defenses, Volunteers, Estoppel, Equitable Estoppel, Elements of Equitable Estoppel, Contracts Law, Standards of Performance, Creditors & Debtors, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Money Had & Received, Equitable Relief, Quantum Meruit, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Relief