July 14, 2020 – Motion to Dismiss: Witherspoon, Draper James Say Plaintiffs’ Lawsuit “Attempt[s] to Avoid Common Sense”
Actress Reese Witherspoon and clothing company Draper James, LLC have pushed back against the proposed class action detailed on this page, telling the court that the lawsuit falls short on a number of accounts and amounts to an attempt to “punish” the parties for making a goodwill offer.
“This lawsuit is an unjust attempt to exploit Draper James’ good intentions to honor the teacher community by gifting hundreds of free dresses,” the defendants argued in a July 10motion to dismiss.
Witherspoon and Draper James underscored the fact that an Instagram post from the company made clear the free-dress promo would only be “valid while supplies last.” In all, the defendants say the plaintiffs’ “attempt to avoid common sense” by arguing that the promotion, which included the words “apply,” “winners” and “offer valid while supplies last,” obligated Draper James to provide a free dress to every teacher who responded.
“No reasonable respondent would share Plaintiffs’ beliefs that a boutique clothing line would be awarding a limitless supply of free dresses,” the motion reads, critiquing the plaintiffs’ “inability to articulate any deception,” as well as the absence of any alleged harm and other “fundamental pleading flaws.”
A proposed class action alleges a promotional campaign purporting to offer a free dress to teachers who signed up with Reese Witherspoon-owned clothing company Draper James was nothing more than a scam in that nearly a million consumers submitted their personal information in exchange for mere participation in a quantity-limited lottery.
According to the 29-page complaint out of California, Draper James and Witherspoon engaged in a campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic in which they claimed to offer a new dress to teachers who signed up with the clothing company. To sign up, an individual needed to provide their personal contact information, including their teacher ID, grade level, subject, teacher work email address and a copy of their work ID badge, details that the suit points out can be exploited by cybercriminals or sold for profit.
Though the defendants represented “in clear and positive terms” that they would provide teachers with something in exchange for the submission of their highly sensitive information, Draper James and Witherspoon did not disclose that those who signed up with the company would merely gain entry into a lottery limited to 250 dresses, the lawsuit alleges. While the defendants included the caveat that their offer was “valid while supplies last” and that “winners would be notified on Tuesday, April 7th,” such language failed to place a reasonable consumer on notice that the campaign was a lottery, the complaint claims.
The plaintiffs allege Witherspoon and Draper James failed to disclose the material fact that they only intended to provide dresses to 250 people. Moreover, the lawsuit slams the defendants with the claim that the average retail cost of products given to 250 people—an estimated $12,500—is paltry compared to the millions others of Witherspoon’s “renown” have offered to COVID-19 victims.
The suit charges consumers were damaged in that they provided their sensitive personal employment information to the defendants without receiving the benefit of their bargain as offered.
“Plaintiffs reasonably acted in a positive response to these claims and was [sic] deceived,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs did not know, and had no reason to know, that Defendants’ promotional plan did not intend to offer anything close to what they publicly offered.”
Further, The Today Show, Good Morning America and other national programs would have been unlikely to tout the defendants’ efforts had they known the free-dress offer for educators amounted to “a pittance,” the complaint avers.
After receiving close to a million submissions once the free-dress promotion went viral, the defendants “suddenly renounced” their offer and instead claimed it was a lottery drawing, the suit continues. In an effort to encourage sales, the defendants provided consumers with a product coupon that, when considering the estimated product markup, meant in all likelihood that Draper James and Witherspoon still made money on sales, the plaintiffs say. Moreover, proposed class members were sent numerous product advertisements even after the promotion had ended, the lawsuit says.
In all, the defendants’ efforts allowed them to exponentially increase the size and value of their marketing database “in ways that saved them hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in marketing costs” over what they would have paid absent the free-dress offer, the complaint alleges.
Since initially rolling out the campaign, the defendants, to placate consumers in the face of public outcry, have claimed they would make a donation of an unspecified amount to a charity instead of following through on their representations of providing free dresses to teachers, the case claims.
“This has only made their ploy subject to further outcry and derision,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit alleges that absent certain clear disclosures, it is unlawful to claim goods or services have benefits or qualities they do not have or advertise goods or services without the intent to supply reasonably expectable demand. Similarly, it is unlawful to represent that a transaction confers or involves rights, remedies or obligations that it does not have or involve, or which are prohibited by law, or to claim that the subject of a transaction has been supplied in accordance with a previous representation when it has not, the case says.
“Defendants’ claims were false and deceptive when made, as they had no intent to satisfy any reasonable expectation of demand, particularly considering Ms. Witherspoon’s popularity and the active promotion of this offer and the resulting exploitation of this response by bombarding consumers who responded with email offers to buy their goods and services,” the complaint reads.
Counsel for Draper James told Law360 that the lawsuit marks “an unjust attempt to exploit Draper James’ good intentions to honor the teacher community by gifting hundreds of free dresses.” The attorneys added that the disclosures made in connection with the promotion eliminated any grounds for a lawsuit.
“Draper James looks forward to defending this case, to continuing its efforts to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions made by teachers during this time of need, and to being vindicated in court,” counsel told Law360.
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