Macy's says federal law preempts Calif. statute in class action over jeans

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 15, 2014

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) - Macy's has asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit against it for allegedly incorrectly claiming a brand of jeans in its stores were made in the United States.

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) - Macy's has asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit against it for allegedly incorrectly claiming a brand of jeans in its stores were made in the United States.

Macy's, Citizens of Humanity, and BOP LLC said named plaintiffs Louise Clark and Robyn Marnell failed to state a claim in their amended complaint, according to a motion to dismiss filed Dec. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

There is no question that the defendants sold blue jeans that were designed, assembled, sewn, laundered and packaged in the United States, according to the motion.

"Plaintiffs claim, nevertheless, that defendants ran afoul of California law by labeling the jeans 'Made in the U.S.A.' because certain unidentified 'components' – possibly the rivets, zippers, buttons, or fabric – were made outside the United States," the motion states.

The California statute at issue is preempted by the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Federal Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, according to the motion.

The California statute also violates the dormant Commerce Clause.

"California’s more stringent regulations have no real public benefit," the motion states. "To the contrary, they are a public detriment in that they fail to promote businesses that do the lion’s share of their manufacturing in the United States."

The California statute imposes a significant burden on interstate commerce, as sharply demonstrated by one of the defendants here – a Wisconsin-based internet retailer, according to the motion.

"That retailer must now either change its labeling for the whole country or set up procedures for identifying California-based customers and keep a supply on hand of specially labeled merchandise," the motion states. "And then what if other states decide on different requirements for their citizens? Must a manufacturer produce 5, 10, 20 differently labeled garments?"

Where a state law claim is preempted by federal law, that claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim, according to the motion.

The class action lawsuit was initially filed on June 9, and an amended complaint was filed Nov. 20.

The plaintiffs claimed they purchased Citizens of Humanity jeans at Macy's and and that the jeans are falsely labeled as "Made in the U.S.A."

"Consumers are particularly vulnerable to these deceptive and fraudulent practices," the complaint states. "Most consumers possess very limited knowledge of the likelihood that products, including the component parts therein, claimed to be made in the United States are in fact made in foreign countries. This is a material factor in many individuals’ purchasing decisions, as they believe they are supporting American companies and American jobs."

Consumers generally believe that "Made in the U.S.A." products are also of higher quality than their foreign - manufactured counterparts.

"Due to defendants' scheme to defraud the market, members of the general public were fraudulently induced to purchase defendants' products at inflated prices," the complaint states.

California and federal laws are designed to protect consumers from this type of false representation and predatory conduct, according to the suit. The defendants' scheme to defraud consumers is ongoing and will victimize consumers each and every day until altered by judicial intervention.

The plaintiffs are represented by John H. Donboli of Del Mar Law Group LLP in San Diego and Shannon L. Hopkins, Nancy A. Kulesa and Stephanie A. Bartone of Levi Korsinsky LLP in Stamford, Conn.

The defendants are represented by Peter W. Ross and Michael A. Bowse of Browne George Ross LLP in Los Angeles.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Jan. 22.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California case number: 3:14-cv-01404

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at

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