Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice Wins Supreme Court Dismissal of Missouri Merchandising Practices Act Class Action
In a Missouri Merchandising Practices Act case in which the plaintiff class alleged that our automotive client had engaged in misrepresentation when it described certain vehicles as luxury or premium vehicles (among other similar statements), when in fact their dashboards were prone to an unattractive "bubbling" defect, a Jackson County Circuit Court jury ruled for plaintiffs, with the court awarding $652,000 in damages to class members, and $1,819,785 in attorney's fees. The Western District Court of Appeals reversed and ruled in favor of our client; and the Missouri Supreme Court granted review, with the state Attorney General's office weighing in, in support of plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-1, entering judgment in favor of our client. At issue in the case was whether under the MMPA, mere "puffery" could constitute a misrepresentation. The Supreme Court said that issue could be decided some other day, but that the record in this case showed no meaningful evidence that the vehicles were not premium or luxury vehicles, requiring reversal of the Circuit Court verdict. We believe this is the first MMPA class action in Missouri in which a class was certified, and the case went to trial. The decision is a meaningful win for the automotive industry, and stands for the proposition that saying nice things about a car cannot reasonably be construed as a promise that nothing will go wrong on the car. Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice worked with the client’s national counsel, Jenner & Block in both the trial and appeal of this case.