Can Consumers of Louisville Slugger Baseball Bats Hit a Homerun in Legal Battle Against Wilson Sporting Goods?
In January, a class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago against Wilson Sporting Goods by a consumer who purchased a Louisville Slugger baseball bat for his high-school age son. The Louisville Slugger baseball bat has a design flaw that causes its handle to move independently of the barrel when swung, which is alleged to decrease the power and detract from the performance of the bat.
Wilson Sporting Goods also advertised the bats as meeting standards set by the United States Specialty Sports Associations (USSSA). Because of the defect, the bat does not comply with the USSA and cannot be used in USSA tournaments. After learning that the bats they purchased were misrepresented as being USSA compliant, the plaintiffs brought a breach of warranty and consumer fraud suit seeking redress for consumers who, like them, purchased these non-compliant bats.
The plaintiffs argued that rather than honor its warranty and replace the bats with non-defective bats of equivalent value, Wilson instead edited its marketing material to mention the movement between the barrel and handle as a deliberate part of the design in order to deny warranty coverage. However, the plaintiffs maintain that the movement between the handle and the barrel was not how the bat was advertised—at least not when the plaintiff’s purchased the bat.
Wilson has now moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim and to have the plaintiff’s national class allegations stricken. Wilson specifically argues that the main plaintiff cannot bring a claim based on Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act because he is a Texas, not Illinois, resident. However, the plaintiffs have responded that “in arguing for dismissal, [Wilson] raises a series of unavailing arguments that misstate and misapply the law applicable to plaintiffs’ claims.” Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that numerous courts have found that nonresidents are capable of bringing such claims if the alleged deception occurred in Illinois. The parties are currently awaiting a decision on the motion to dismiss.