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Oom v. The Michaels Companies Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 19, 2017

DANIELLE OOM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE MICHAELS COMPANIES INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          PAUL L. MALONEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Oom and Spofford allege that they paid for custom-framing services for 25 pieces of artwork from a Michaels store in Holland, Michigan, but received lesser-value framing that damaged their art. Plaintiffs bring an action in diversity under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) against The Michaels Companies Inc. (“TMCI”), Michaels Stores Inc. (“Michaels”), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMCI, and Artistree, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Michaels. Plaintiffs raise the following causes of action: (1) violations of state consumer protection statutes; (2) violations of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (as codified by state staututes); (3) violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.; (4) violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.901 et seq.; (5) fraud and misrepresentation; (6) unjust enrichment; (7) negligence; (8) breach of express warranty; and (9) breach of implied warranty, Mich. Comp. Laws § 440.2314 et seq. Plaintiffs allege that they are part of a class of persons-either in Michigan (“Michigan class”) or the United States (“Nationwide Class”)-“who purchased custom framing products, specifically preservation mounting and/or archival tape mounting from Defendants' store locations and who did not receive preservation mounting and/or archival tape mounting.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 66, ECF No. 10, PageID.78.)

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 16), a motion to strike class allegations (ECF No. 18), and Defendant TMCI has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (ECF No. 20). Plaintiffs have responded to each motion (ECF Nos. 25, 26, 27), and Defendants have filed replies (ECF No. 28, 29, 30). Upon careful review of the record, the Court has decided that the motions can be resolved without oral argument. See W.D. Mich. LCivR 7.3(d). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to strike class allegations (ECF No. 18) is granted.

         I.

         Michaels is an arts-and-craft store chain that offers framing products and services at its stores, and advertises these products and services to consumers. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 10, PageID.64.) The advertisements include a “promise of expertise, inspired design and archival quality materials” and certified framing experts “skilled in state-of-the-art preservation techniques.” (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8, PageID.65.) Artistree supplies custom and specialty-framing materials used in Michaels stores throughout the country. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Michaels advertises Artistree as its “wholly-owned manufacturing subsidiary, [which] supplies high quality custom and specialty framing merchandise, including prints and precut mats to our Michaels and Aaron Brothers stores.” (Id. at ¶ 13, PageID.66.)

         Michaels offers several framing options; the relevant options include: (1) preservation mounting; (2) tape mounting; and (3) dry mounting. Preservation mounting is the most-expensive option. Michaels advertises that its “preservation-grade finishing touches include museum-quality archival mats and UV-blocking glass that will protect your precious pieces of art.” (Id. at ¶ 10, PageID.65.) Preservation mounting involves framing the artwork in a stable environment to minimize risks of deterioration and environmental factors. (Id. at ¶ 16, PageID.66-67.) There are widely-accepted industry specifications for materials and techniques used in preservation mounting. (Id.) Tape mounting involves the use of paper mounting and hinging tape to mount artwork. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Dry mounting involves permanently attaching the artwork to the mount board and is irreversible, so it is not considered a preservation technique. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiffs allege that from January 2013 through June 2015, they brought 27 pieces of artwork to the Michaels store in Holland, Michigan, for custom preservation framing. Plaintiffs contend that they “relayed to Defendants' certified framing expert that preservation of the artwork was of utmost importance to Plaintiffs, ” and that they wanted to “preserve the pieces in perfect condition.” (Id. at ¶ 32, ECF No. 10, PageID.69-70.) Plaintiffs assert that they were told by Michaels employees that, if they paid for preservation mounting, they would receive preservation mounting. (Id. at ¶¶ 34, 37-42, PageID.70-71.) In total, Plaintiffs paid $2, 459.60 for preservation-framing services. (Id. at ¶ 43.) But Plaintiffs allege that they did not receive the preservation mounting that they paid for; instead, they received framing of lesser value. They assert that 25 of their pieces were tape mounted with inferior adhesive tape that could not be removed from the artwork, which caused permanent damage and diminished the artwork's value. (Id. at ¶¶ 46-47, PageID.72.)

         Plaintiffs contend that pamphlets in the Holland store advertised employee skills in state-of-the-art preservation techniques, and that they relied upon the price listed in those pamphlets. Plaintiffs allege that “Michaels warranted skilled certified framing experts who would use ‘archival photo corners' and ‘museum-quality archival mats' supplied by Defendants' wholly-owned subsidiary, Artistree.” (Id. at ¶ 51, PageID.73.) Plaintiffs also assert that the Holland store's framing manager, Katie, explained that the Holland store and other Michaels stores received multiple shipments of inferior adhesive tape from December 2014 through August 2015. (Id. at ¶ 49, PageID.72-73.) The amended complaint also includes online comments from an art collector community resource forum where one user from South Carolina complained of Michaels' use of masking tape in 2007, and another user commented in 2016 that Michaels always uses tape per store policy. (Id. at ¶ 54, 55, PageID.73-74.)

         II.

         Defendants move to strike the class allegations under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(f) and 23.[1] Rule 12(f) provides that “[t]he [C]ourt may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). A Rule 12(f) motion is designed “to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” Kennedy v. Cleveland, 797 F.2d 297, 305 (6th Cir. 1986).

         A court may strike class-action allegations before a motion for class certification if the complaint demonstrates that the requirements for maintaining a class action cannot be met and discovery or factual development would not “alter the central defect in th[e] class claim.” See e.g., Pilgrim v. Universal Health Card, LLC, 660 F.3d 943, 949 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting “[t]hat the motion to strike came before the plaintiffs had filed a motion to certify the class does not by itself make the court's decision reversibly premature” and affirming the district court's grant because it “cannot see how discovery or for that matter more time would have helped [the plaintiffs]”); Sherrod v. Enigma Software Grp. USA, LLC, No. 2:13-cv-36, 2016 WL 2597, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 4, 2016); Wright v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 09-15055, 2015 WL 1737386, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 16, 2015). When a defendant moves “to strike class action allegations on the basis that class certification is precluded as a matter of law, the defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff will be unable to demonstrate facts supporting certification, even after discovery and the creation of a full factual record.” Jimenez v. Allstate Indem. Co., No. 07-14494, 2010 WL 3623176, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 15, 2010). “If a defendant can clearly show that a class definition is legally impermissible, fairness and efficiency require that the Court address the issue in response to a properly filed motion.” Boyer v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., 306 F.R.D. 536, 538 (E.D. Mich. 2015); see also Green v. Liberty Ins. Corp., No. 15-10434, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42602, at *4-5 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 30, 2016).

         “‘When the defendant challenges class certification based solely on the allegations in the complaint, the standard is the same as applied in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).'” Green, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42602, at *5 (quoting Jimenez, 2010 WL 3623176, at *3) (emphasis in original). As such, the complaint must contain “[f]actual allegations . . . enough to raise a right to [class certification] above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true[.]” Id. (quoting Bell Alt. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “The court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs and takes all wellpleaded (sic) factual allegations as true.” Id. (citing Tackett v. M&G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561. F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) and Carrier Corp. v. Outokumu Oyj, 673 F.3d 430, 440 (6th Cir. 2012)). “‘[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of [class certification], the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)) (alterations in original).

         “The substantive analysis, therefore, ‘must begin and end with a rigorous analysis into whether the prerequisites of Rule 23 are met.” Id. (quoting Jimenez, 2010 WL 3623176, at *3) (internal citations omitted). ...


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