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Minnesota attorney: AutoZone class action similar to frequent flyer suits

By Robert Lawson | Dec 6, 2016

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) — A Minnesota attorney from Kennedy & Kennedy law firm says a recent lawsuit filed against AutoZone over its customer loyalty reward program is similar to those that were filed against airlines in frequent flyer miles disputes.

Mary Ruth Hughes and Kevin Shenkman filed the class action complaint in Superior Court of the State of California against AutoZone, alleging breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. The defendant subsequently removed the lawsuit to U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Oct. 27. 

The complaint stated that Hughes and Shenkman suffered monetary damages as a result of AutoZone's allegedly misleading rewards program. The plaintiffs said AutoZone changed expiration dates of credits built up by their customers. 

Chris Kennedy, managing partner at Kennedy & Kennedy, often speaks on legal matters with the media in Minnesota. He spoke on the strength of the case in the class action suit brought forth by the plaintiffs in California. 

"Negligent misrepresentation is the strongest allegation of the three," Kennedy said. 

"The defendant likely never fully explained that the program could go away or be limited in certain instances or it made it difficult for the consumer to know. Like with frequent flyer programs, people didn't realize there were blackout dates. 

"Large companies are usually good at putting out disclaimers, just not always in a manner that anybody looks at."

Why would a company change its expiration dates on credits for rewards? Kennedy had a simple answer.

"Profit," Kennedy said. "If by changing the dates, they may reduce liabilities, or in some way they can increase what is in their balance sheets, then there is a motive to do it."

Kennedy continued to compare the suit to frequent flyer mile program lawsuits against the airlines in recent decades. He also mentioned how other types of promotions from companies have led to class action suits under similar pretenses. 

"There were several regarding frequent flyer mile programs," Kennedy said. "In the past four or five years, there have been lawsuits brought forth regarding gift cards."

Hughes and Shenkman sought trial by jury, compensatory and general damages, interest, an order for the defendant to make a payment to a cy pres fund, court costs and any further relief the court grants. They are represented by attorneys Todd W. Bonder and Ryan M. Lapine of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman LLP in Beverly Hills, California, and by Seth Yohalem of Waskowski Johnson Yohalem LLP in Chicago.

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U.S. District Court for the Central District of California