The First Circuit recently revived consumer deception claims challenging the safety and testing of a car booster seat manufactured by Evenflo, in a case that potentially makes it easier for class-action plaintiffs to satisfy Article III’s standing requirements in the First Circuit when they only allege an economic injury.
The plaintiffs — parents and grandparents who purchased the booster seats — did not seek recovery for any physical injuries caused by the seats. Rather, they claimed that they overpaid for the seats because Evenflo misrepresented: 1) that the seats were safe for children as small as thirty pounds; and 2) the safety testing it performed for the seats. Had they known the truth, the plaintiffs claimed, they would have not bought the seat, would have paid less for it, or would have bought a safer alternative. The district court held these allegations were insufficient to establish Article III standing.
The First Circuit reversed. It first rejected Evenflo’s argument that overpayment without any actual injury is not enough for Article III standing. Such an injury satisfies Article III’s injury-in-fact requirement, the court held, even for a product “that performs adequately and does not cause any physical or emotional injury.”
Second, the court rejected Evenflo’s narrower argument that the plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that they overpaid for the seats. Evenflo contended that it was implausible for the plaintiffs to allege that they would not have purchased a seat, because car seats are legally required for children. But the court reasoned that the parents might have continued to use older models rather than purchase a new model. Evenflo next criticized plaintiffs’ “price premium” theory for not offering a “measure” of the decrease in price. The court, however, held that it was reasonable to infer that — but for the misrepresentations — the seat “would have commanded a lower price.” At this stage, the court did not require “quantification of the change in market value.” Finally, Evenflo argued that because its seats are cheaper than its main competitor, plaintiffs would have actually paid more for a different seat. Although the court conceded that this argument “has some force,” it found there was at least a “possibility” of cheaper options.
Because the plaintiffs adequately alleged an economic injury in the form of overpayment, the court held they had standing to pursue their monetary claims. But the court also affirmed the district court’s holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue injunctive relief. Because the plaintiffs’ allegations focused on Evenflo’s “past behavior,” there was no “impending future injury that an injunction might redress.”