The lawsuit that the Independent Glass Association (IGA) brought against
Safelite earlier this year may have reached the end of the line. Judge
Ann D. Montgomery ordered yesterday that the claims brought by unnamed
plaintiff Jane Roe be dismissed and that Safelite's Motion for Summary
Judgment, filed in late October be granted.
By granting the Motion for Summary Judgment, Montgomery effectively dismissed
the claims brought by the IGA.
Oral arguments regarding Safelite's Summary Judgment took place last
week, with counsel for the defendant (Safelite) requesting the action
based on Plaintiff Jeff Winter's claims citing violation of the Minnesota
False Advertising Act and Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Earlier this year, Montgomery ruled that Winter's false advertising and
deceptive trade practice claims, as well as the claims brought by Roe
deceptive trade practice claim continue on while all other claims in the
case were dismissed.
Roe was identified early in the case only as "a Minnesota resident
and licensed insurance adjuster" whose livelihood depended upon the
good will of Safelite insurance clients. She, through IGA counsel, expressed
concern about retaliation concerning the case that might affect her job.
Judge Montgomery noted in her Opinion that, at the time of the previous
ruling, "Plaintiff Roe was given 60 days to identify herself"
and the judge was informed at oral arguments last week "that Jane
Roe no longer wished to proceed in this case."
With Roe's withdrawal from the case, the Motion for Summary Judgment
as requested by Safelite pertained only to Winter's claims that were left
intact after the last ruling.
According to Montgomery's Opinion, in its Motion for Summary Judgment,
Safelite argued that the claims brought under the Minnesota False Advertising
(MFAA) and Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Acts (MDTPA) fail because
Winter can't demonstrate facts to support an essential element of each
statute, citing that any alleged steering did not work and he "is
aware of Defendants' alleged tactics and will not suffer future loss."
According to the Order, countering Safelite's claim is Winter's argument
that the previous Motion to Dismiss as filed by Safelite "was effectively
a motion for summary judgment, filed without first requesting permission
for reconsideration" and that "no one would ever be able to
bring suit under the MDTPA because anyone who discovered the deceptive
trade practice would forever be on notice and be able to avoid the particular
practice." A similar argument was made about the inability to bring
suit under the MFAA.
In addressing the False Advertising Claim, Montgomery stated in her opinion that "While the MFAA itself does not provide a private right of action, the Minnesota Private Attorney General Act does authorize private enforcement of the MFAA by 'any person injured by a violation [of the MFAA]' to secure a public benefit. Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (emphasis added)" and that "Winter has not alleged any actual injury, monetary or otherwise," because the steering tactics allegedly used on him were not successful and he was able to have his windshield replaced, to his satisfaction, by the company of his choice and was not subjected to any out-of-pocket fees as it was allegedly suggested to him that he might be. Montgomery ruled, "because Winter failed to allege any actual injury, his claim under the MFAA fails as a matter of law."
On the claims regarding breach of the MDTPA, Montgomery cites that "the
remedies section of the MDTPA provides as the sole remedy for a violation
of the MDTPA that '[a] person likely to be damaged by a deceptive
trade practice of another may be granted an injunction against it.' Minn.
Stat. § 325D.45, sbud. 1 (emphasis added). Therefore, a plaintiff
must allege facts that demonstrate a risk of future harm in order to obtain
an injunction under the MDTPA." Returning to the fact that the alleged
steering to which Winter was subjected was not successful, "Winter
has failed to allege any facts that suggest a risk of future harm"
and "now that Winter is aware of Safelite's alleged steering tactics,
Winter is even more likely to be vigilant in the future, refusing to be
swayed from using his preferred repair shop. Because Winter does not allege
any facts showing a risk of future harm, his claim under the MDTPA fails
as a matter of law."
Montgomery's ruling curtails motions filed by the IGA that would have
added additional plaintiffs to the case. On November 7, counsel for the
IGA filed a Notice of Motion and Motion to Amend Complaint that according
to a recent Beacon Bulletin was intended to add the auto glass shop owned
by IGA board member Rick Rosar as a Plaintiff to the case. The motion
had been entered on the books and been scheduled for oral arguments on
Yesterday's ruling by Judge Montgomery effectively ends this specific
lawsuit, but an IGA press release indicates that the board will explore
its options for filing a new suit at the next board meeting, scheduled
for December 7 and 8.
For more information on the IGA press release, see "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over."
For more information on the Safelite press release, see "Federal Court Dismisses Remaining Claims in IGA-Backed Lawsuit Against Safelite."
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