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Judge boots lawsuit over change in L.L. Bean return policy

A federal judge says a man who sued L.L. Bean over a pair of slippers it refused to replace after it eliminated its lifetime return policy last year really shouldn't have.

In a ruling yesterday, US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton said Benjamin Pershouse of Woburn failed to prove he was really hurt by the change - of that he even paid the least bit of attention to the original return policy when he bought a pair of slippers.

Gorton pointed to the fact that Pershouse did not try to return the slippers until last March, five years after he bought them - and a few weeks after the company announced it was eliminating the lifetime policy because too many people were abusing it.

The judge said Pershouse provided failed to prove his alleged and sudden dissatisfaction was real and in "good faith," as required by the Massachusetts consumer-protection law Pershouse used to seek to become the lead plaintiff in a class action to represent L.L. Bean consumers in the state.

While he alleges that the soles of the slippers began breaking off after several years of use, that allegation does not insinuate dissatisfaction with the product. Rather, that claim just as easily infers that the soles began breaking off as a result of normal wear and tear after several years of use. Moreover, the fact that Pershouse waited five years before attempting to return the slippers contradicts the notion that he was dissatisfied with the quality of the product. Based on the plain language of the Satisfaction Guarantee contained in the complaint, the Court finds that L.L. Bean’s policy warrants nothing more than good faith (and perhaps reasonable) customer satisfaction. It is not a lifetime product replacement program for worn-out products.

Gorton continued:

Pershouse does not allege that he relied on the Guarantee in purchasing the slippers. Nor does he claim that he even saw the Guarantee before he bought them. While plaintiff avers that the Guarantee was highly publicized, both on its website and in its marketing materials, he does not suggest that he personally saw the Guarantee or would not have bought the slippers but for it. Absent an allegation of fact to infer reliance, plaintiff has not stated a claim for breach of warranty.

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PDF icon Complete ruling132.9 KB


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Ah, another fine example of our tax dollars hard at work for the common good.

Voting closed 9

Yeah, a strong legal system in which private disputes can be resolved fairly is a very good use of tax dollars.

Voting closed 34

While unlikely, I hope he was made to pay attorney fees for the company, too.

Voting closed 9

While this particular lawsuit seems ridiculous, I'm not sure that's a good precedent to set. Being able to sue massive corporations and have the case more-or-less heard is a right I appreciate people having. People usually lose these suits anyway. Large businesses have the money to defend suits, and they also have money that individuals and small businesses don't have to take steps to not have people pissed off at them. Sure, there are going to be those people who just are pissed off because that's what they do, but a large business that's doing well can generally afford to do things like hook people up with discounts and coupons on their next purchase to get them to not be mad at a policy. If people are frequently suing a company, the company should look into what they're doing to piss people off. If it's infrequent, then there's not much anyone can do about people who are just pissed off at life.

If it's people suing their neighbors and whatnot for frivolous reasons, then, sure, I support being awarded legal fees.

Voting closed 15

Large corporations have the means and incentive to be deceitful, manipulative, unfair, and outright cheat customers. Given how inept the government regulators are, these sorts of lawsuits are one of the few things which keep them honest.

Voting closed 7

Sweet justice!

Voting closed 4