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Johnston v. PhD Fitness, LLC

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

January 31, 2018

JEFF JOHNSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
PhD FITNESS, LLC, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [11]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jeff Johnston wanted a sports supplement with ingredients in quantities backed by clinical studies. Johnston visited a GNC store and purchased Pre-JYM and Post-JYM. Manufactured by Defendant PhD Fitness, LLC, the JYMs claimed to contain properly-dosed ingredients essential to gains in “size, strength, and endurance.

         Johnston says he was deceived. The representations on the packaging convinced him he had a valuable sports supplement to add to his fitness regimen. But Johnston says the JYMs do not, as claimed, contain properly-dosed ingredients. And had he known “the true nature of the Products, ” he would not have purchased them. So “individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, ” Johnston brings breach of warranty and fraud claims against the manufacturer of the supplements.

         PhD Fitness moved to dismiss Johnston's claims. For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part, and deny in part, the motion to dismiss.

         I.

         The Court presents the non-conclusory allegations of Johnston's amended complaint as fact. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         PhD Fitness produces sports supplements. The supplements are the brainchild of PhD Fitness, LLC member, Jim Stoppani, a self-proclaimed lab and gym rat. (R. 9, PID 171.) Combining his personal and professional interests, Stoppani created Pre-JYM and Post-JYM. The JYMs contain thirteen listed ingredients-things like Creatine, CarnoSyn, and Glutamine- allegedly helpful to boosting performance in the gym and building muscle after a workout. (R. 9, PID 157-70.)

         On the Pre-JYM label, Stoppani represents, “Every ingredient in this formula is in a dose used in clinical studies and my own gym to produce significant gains in size, strength and endurance.” (R. 9, PID 171.) And Stoppani tells would-be purchasers of Post-JYM that “[the listed] ingredients, in full research-backed doses, are in this bottle.” (Id.)

         In the summer of 2013, PhD Fitness agreed to an exclusive deal with Bodybuilding.com. (R. 9, PID 155.) Bodybuilding.com is an “online retail giant.” (Id.) Under the terms of the exclusive deal, Bodybuilding.com offered the JYMs for purchase on its website. (Id.)

         In its website marketing claims for Pre-JYM, PhD Fitness blames JYMs' competitors for “grossly underdosing ingredients.” (R. 9, PID 156.) Then the webpage proclaims that Pre-JYM “contains 13 ingredients at proper, powerful doses.” (Id.) The page also contains a bullet-point list of Pre-JYM's features, one of which is “Full doses of 13 science-backed ingredients.” (R. 9, PID 157.)

         Bodybuilding.com maintained a similar page for Post-JYM. The Post-JYM marketing claims state that the supplement has “proper dosing on all ingredients.” (R. 9, PID 163.) The eight ingredients listed on the bottle “are critical for recovery” and “[e]very single ingredient is included at the best dose to optimize repair and growth.” (Id.)

         Johnston alleges that thousands of people purchased the JYMs from Bodybuilding.com. (R. 9, PID 174.) In making those purchases, Johnston says the buyers all saw and believed the website's representations. (Id.)

         After about three years, PhD Fitness ended its exclusive deal with Bodybuilding.com and began selling the JYM Products exclusively through GNC, another dietary supplement retail store. (R. 9, PID 170.) GNC's website contained pages for the JYM products, and the marketing claims on the GNC pages were identical to the claims on Bodybuilding.com. (R. 9, PID 171.)

         Johnston purchased the JYMs from a GNC store. (R. 9, PID 154.) The GNC website product pages reflect the exact descriptive language found on the products' labels. (R. 9, PID 170- 171.) For example, the products' labels represent that the JYMs contain research-backed doses of the listed ingredients. (R. 9, PID 154, 170-71.) Johnston wanted a supplement with ingredients dosed in quantities backed by clinical studies. Because Johnston believed Stoppani's explanation of the JYMs' dosing, he purchased the JYMs. (R. 9, PID 154.)

         But at some point, Johnston came to learn that the claimed results from the dosing in the JYMs is not supported by the clinical studies. Johnston offers numerous examples of clinical studies he believes contradict certain marketing claims made by PhD Fitness. (See R. 9, PID 156- 70.) For example, Pre-JYM contains two grams of CarnoSyn per serving, which the product label says “promote[s] muscle power, strength, endurance, and muscle growth.” (R. 9, PID 157.) But Johnston cites research studies finding that CarnoSyn only has those effects at higher doses. (R. 9, PID 159-160.)

         Disturbed by the “demonstrably false” claims (R. 9, PID 171) and “deceptive statements” (R. 9, PID 179) in the marketing and labeling of the JYMs' products, Johnston and two others filed suit in November 2016 (R. 1). Among other things, Johnston alleged breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment claims. (R. 1, PID 28-40.) PhD moved to dismiss. (R. 7.) A month later, Johnston amended his complaint. (R. 9.) The amended complaint keeps the warranty, tort, and unjust enrichment claims, but drops the other two named plaintiffs. ...


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