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Crenshaw v. Macy's, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 21, 2016

JOHN CRENSHAW, Plaintiff,
v.
MACY’S, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. 5)

          LAWRENCE J. O’NEILL UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. PRELIMINARY STATEMENT TO PARTIES AND COUNSEL

         Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff, this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court’s inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge, whose schedules are far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. Chief District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

         Civil trials set before Chief Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Chief Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from inside or outside the Eastern District of California.

         II. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff John Crenshaw brings this products liability case against Macy’s, Inc. (“Defendant”), Sunham Home Fashions, LLC (“Sunham”), and Kam Hing Enterprises, Inc. (“KHE”), alleging, among others, three claims for violation of (1) California Business & Professions Code §§ 17200 (“§ 17200”), et seq.; (2) California Business & Professions Code § 17500 (“§ 17500”), et seq.; and (3) California Civil Code § 1750 (“§ 1750”), et seq. Defendant moves under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss these claims and Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages associated with his § 1750 claim. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         III. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY [1]

         In May 2014, Plaintiff went to one of Defendant’s stores. Doc. 3, Complaint (“Compl.”) at ¶ 9. “Plaintiff saw an advertisement in the [] store for a ‘skid resistant’ bathroom mat . . . [T]he ‘skid resistant’ advertisement was made on the mat packaging.” Id. at ¶ 10. Defendants Sunham and/or KHE manufactured the packaging. Id. at ¶ 10. “Based on the ‘skid resistant’ notation, Plaintiff purchased several of the bathroom mats . . . for use at his home, in his bathroom.” Id. at ¶ 12. “Except for the advertisement that the mats were ‘skid resistant, ’ Plaintiff would not have purchased and utilized the bathroom mats.” Id. at ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff alleges the mats “are not ‘skid resistant, ’ especially when they become wet.” Id. at ¶ 13. “At some point . . . Plaintiff exited his shower and stepped onto one of the . . . mats, ” which “slipped out from under [him].” Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff fell to the floor and severely injured himself. Id. Plaintiff therefore claims the mats “were inherently unsafe, as they were not ‘skid resistant’ as advertised.” Id. at ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff’s causes of action under §§ 17200, 17500, and 1750 are premised on the same allegations. Plaintiff alleges Defendant knew or should have known that, though the “mats are marketed as ‘non skid’ or ‘skid resistant’ . . . they are not, in fact, ‘non skid’ or ‘skid resistant.’” Id. at ¶¶ 29-30, 36-38, 45-46. Plaintiff claims the mats have no skid-resisting properties, but “are mere decoration and have no safety features.” Id. at ¶¶ 30, 39, 48. Plaintiff therefore asserts Defendant’s advertising and selling the bathroom mats as “skid resistant” “constitutes an unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business act[] or practice[] because the bathroom mats are unsafe, and are not safety equipment as described or implied in the advertisements.” Id. at ¶¶ 31, 38, 47.

         Defendant now moves to dismiss these three causes of action for failure to state a claim.

         IV. STANDARD OF DECISION

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure[2] 12(b)(6) is a challenge to the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the complaint. A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper where there is either a “lack of a cognizable legal theory” or “the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court generally accepts as true the allegations in the complaint, construes the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolves all doubts in the pleader’s favor. Lazy Y. Ranch LTD v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 588 (9th Cir. 2008).

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the Plaintiffs pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent ...


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