Brother Beats Toner-Cartridge Class-Action Lawsuit

Brother MFC Color Toner SetA California law firm representing Brother International, Rutan & Tucker, LLP, reports that it’s achieved a “major victory” for Brother, as a federal district court in New Jersey has granted summary judgment in favor of Brother and against all plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit involving the page yield of Brother toner cartridges. The case is Dicuio v. Brother Int’l Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68029 (D.N.J. May 27, 2015).

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011, with the  plaintiffs alleging that all purchasers of certain models of Brother-brand color laser printers were “damaged” by a variety of “inadequately disclosed” design features which, according to  the plaintiffs, caused the printers to use color toner at a higher rate than consumers might expect, and require toner replacement before each cartridge delivered its advertised  page yield.

Plaintiffs tried to substantiate their claims by reviewing thousands of documents produced by Brother, deposing Brother’s key officers, and retaining experts. Plaintiffs moved to certify a national class suing Brother under New Jersey’s consumer protection laws, the state where Brother is headquartered.

Brother opposed the motion for class certification and also moved for summary judgment based on evidence from plaintiffs’ deposition testimony and data captured by plaintiffs’ printers. That evidence showed that plaintiffs’ color toner cartridges had performed as advertised. Brother-brand toner cartridges are advertised as capable of printing a particular number of pages at 5-percent average toner coverage. This advertising, in turn, is based on testing performed under an industry-standard protocol published by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

The New Jersey District Court agreed that even after years of discovery, plaintiffs had no evidence that Brother-brand printers do not work as advertised. Specifically, the court ruled that there was no evidence that plaintiffs’ color toner cartridges failed to deliver their advertised page yield. According to the firm, in testing conducted by experts, Brother-brand color toner cartridges met or exceeded their advertised page yield. The New Jersey District Court declined to decide the motion for class certification, having already determined that all four proposed class representatives lacked any injury and, consequently, lacked standing to sue.

Plaintiffs presented a variety of theories for measuring their alleged damages, all of which were rejected by the court. At one point, plaintiffs claimed that all buyers failed to realize as much as 75 percent of the promised yield for their color toner cartridges, a claim that equates to about $200 million in damages.

In 2010, this same New Jersey District Court judge dismissed another class-action lawsuit against Brother rejecting allegations that consumers who obtain the advertised page yield are “damaged” if some toner remains in a cartridge upon replacement (Arcand v. Brother Int’l Corp., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103942 [D.N.J. Sept. 29, 2010]). Also in 2010, a California District Court refused to certify a class action alleging that Brother failed to adequately disclose certain printer-design features that could affect toner consumption (Kandel v. Brother Int’l Corp., 264 F.R.D. 630 [C.D. Cal. 2010]). That same California District Court had ruled earlier that would-be class action plaintiffs and their lawyers were liable to pay Brother $100,000 in attorneys’ fees based on litigation tactics, a result upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Richardson v. Brother Int’l Corp., 400 Fed. Appx. 284 (9th Cir. 2010).

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