NDCA Issues Mixed Ruling in Lenovo False Laptop ‘Reference Pricing’ Action

Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled on Lenovo Inc.’s motion to dismiss on Tuesday, partly granting the motion that sought to eliminate computer purchasers’ claims for equitable relief. The court agreed that the plaintiffs failed to state claims for equitable monetary relief such as disgorgement and restitution because they did not plead an inadequate remedy at law.

The case arose last year after two Californians who purchased Lenovo laptops online from the company’s website based on the representation that they were receiving substantial discounts alleged that in fact the regular price, and therefore the discount, was inflated. They contended that they would not have bought the computers or would have agreed to pay less for them had they known their true regular price. The lawsuit stated California consumer law claims and sought injunctive and equitable relief and damages.

Lenovo partly moved to dismiss in November. The plaintiffs opposed. A hearing was scheduled for mid-January, however Judge White found the matter suitable for disposition without oral argument.

In this week’s opinion, the court relied on Ninth Circuit precedent to hold that the plaintiffs’ claims for monetary equitable relief could not survive dismissal as there was no reason why their claims at law, for damages, for example, were insufficient to confer relief. “With regard to their requests for restitution and disgorgement, Plaintiffs have not alleged facts to show they lack an adequate remedy at law; nor are the allegations sufficient to show why the remedies at law requested would be inadequate,” the opinion said.

In addition, Judge White considered arguments that some of their equitable claims were premised on legal theories distinct from those supporting their non-equitable claims. The court was unmoved. “Plaintiffs incorporate by reference earlier allegations into each claim for relief and do not clearly differentiate the facts that support their claims under the various prongs of the [Unfair Competition Law].”

Finally, Judge White permitted the plaintiffs’ claims for prospective injunctive relief to proceed. The court found sufficient the purchasers’ allegations that they would like to make purchases from Lenovo’s website in the future but are deterred from doing so because they cannot be sure that Lenovo’s pricing portrayals are truthful. 

The plaintiffs have until January 25 to amend their complaint. They are represented by Edge, A Professional Law Corporation and Capstone Law APC and the defendant by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.