Law School Case Brief
Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. - 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138739 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 7, 2010)
Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only where there is either a lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.
Plaintiffs Amanda Sateriale and several others, all of whom were smokers, 21 years old and older, alleged that beginning in 1991, defendant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ("RJR") conducted the "Camel Cash" program ("Program"). Under the Program, RJR sold Camel cigarettes along with certificates redeemable for merchandise described in catalogs circulated by RJR. Plaintiffs either purchased Camel cigarettes and the Camel Cash certificates packaged with those cigarettes, or purchased Camel Cash through secondary market transaction. Thereafter, plaintiffs registered for the Program by filling out an enrollment form and submitting the form to RJR, which the latter accepted and processed. Plaintiffs were then provided with their respective enrollment number and one or more catalogs containing merchandise. However, on Oct. 1, 2006, RJR announced that it would be discontinuing the Camel Cash program. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed a suit against RJR in federal district court alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, unfair competition under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq., and deceptive practices pursuant to the Consumer Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA"), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750 et seq. The complaint had been amended three times. Subsequently, RJR filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6).
Should RJR's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint be granted?
The court granted RJR's motion to dismiss. As to the first issue, the court held, among other things, that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for breach of contract because the complaint did not allege the existence of a valid contract between the parties. The court concluded that plaintiffs allegations created only an offer to receive offers, an invitation to order from the catalog. On the second issue, the court ruled that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for primary estoppel because there was no clear and unambiguous promise to maintain a reasonable quantity of merchandise for any particularized period of time. As to the third issue, the court determined that plaintiffs did not have a standing to maintain their Unfair Competition Law (UCL) claim. Assuming arguendo that plaintiffs had standing to pursue their UCL claim, the court held that it would still fail, as RJR's announcement was not likely to deceive consumers. As to the fourth claim, the court determined that the complaint did not state a claim for deceptive practices pursuant to the CLRA in that plaintiffs did not allege that RJR advertised or distributed Camel Cash without intending to honor the program. Given that it was plaintiffs' fourth complaint and allegations of other facts could not possibly cure the deficiencies identified in the third amended complaint, the court dismissed the action with prejudice.
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