Particularly in economic loss class actions, we occasionally have to deal with claims involving the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”). Thus, we have covered MMWA issues before. Here’s another one. In In Re Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., Dog Food Products Liability Litigation, 2022 WL 1641291 (D. Kan. May 24, 2022), the court held that foreign plaintiffs that bought goods exported from the United States in foreign countries cannot bring MMWA claims because the statute cannot be applied in an extraterritorial fashion. Given the paucity of prior precedent in the Hill’s Pet decision, we thought it was worth bringing this to the attention of our readers.
The plaintiff in Hill’s Pet was “a resident of Germany who bought recalled . . . pet food and fed it to her dog.” Id. at *1. That plaintiff sought to bring “a class action on behalf of other European purchasers of recalled” product. Id. The defendants sought, and received, dismissal on the ground that the MMWA cannot apply extraterritorially to overseas purchases of consumer goods in foreign countries.
There is not much precedent on the extraterritoriality of the MMWA. The Sixth Circuit, in a device case that earned an honorable mention in our 2020 Best Cases post for other reasons, identified the extraterritorial issue, but did not decide it. In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, 953 F.3d 890, 896 (6th Cir. 2020). District courts had split, with MY. P.I.I., LLC v. Tognum America, Inc., 2016 WL 7626201, at *3-6 (S.D. Fla. March 31, 2016), Stein v. Marquis Yachts, LLC, 2015 WL 3440163, at *2-3 (S.D. Fla. 2015), and In re Toyota Motor Corp., 785 F. Supp.2d 883, 914 (C.D. Cal. 2011), all holding that the MMRA had no extraterritorial effect. On the other hand, Barnext Offshore Ltd. v. Ferretti Group USA, Inc., 2011 WL 13223746 (S.D. Fla. May 16, 2011), applied the MMWA extraterritorially, but only where the plaintiff was a United States citizen who had bought a product overseas with the intent of using it in the United States. Id. at *5-6.
Hill’s Pet went with the majority rule, for several reasons:
- There is a “presumption against extraterritoriality” that applies to all federal statutes, reflecting “commonsense notion that Congress generally legislates with domestic concerns in mind.” 2022 WL 1641291, at *3 (footnote and quotation marks omitted).
- In enacting the MMWA, Congress gave no “clear, affirmative indication that it applies extraterritorially.” at *3-4 (footnote and quotation marks omitted).
- Similarly worded statutes had been interpreted not to apply extraterritorially. at *4.
- The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the MMWA, “has similarly interpreted the MMWA not to reach exported consumer products sold abroad” and “does not contemplate the enforcement of the Act with respect to consumer products exported to foreign jurisdictions.” at *5 (footnotes and quotation marks omitted).
- The MMWA had no conceivable “domestic application,” since “the alleged sales of [the] products all took place in Europe, not the United States.” at *6.
Another bogus class action bites the dust, while providing useful precedent that should help deter repetition of such meritless litigation.