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July 18 — Fitbit Inc. can't say good night to would-be class claims by consumers alleging the company misled them into paying a premium for sleep-tracking functions that don't work ( Brickman v. Fitbit, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 15-02077, 7/18/16 ).
James P. Brickman and the other plaintiffs adequately alleged claims against the maker of the popular wearable fitness trackers, Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said July 15.
According to the product owners, the devices use an accelerometer that detects movement, which isn't a proxy for sleep.
The plaintiffs say they paid a $30 premium for the sleep-monitoring feature. They raised fraud, consumer protection and other claims against Fitbit.
The allegations in the complaint satisfy the heightened, specific pleading requirements for fraud claims, the court said.
For example, the consumers identified the statements on Fitbit's packaging representing that the wearable could track “hours slept,” “times woken up” and “sleep quality,” the court said.
These same allegations establish the plausibility of the deception claims, the court said.
The parties “clearly have sharply divergent views” about sleep monitoring technology and what works, but those issues of fact go beyond a motion to dismiss, the court said.
And even if Fitbit's studies might validate the use of accelerometers for sleep monitoring, the court said, the claims arise out of the company's representations on product packaging and other sources.
Consumers aren't expected to do extra research beyond a company's representations on the front of the box, the court said.
Fitbit disputes the claims against them.
“The court’s ruling does not address the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations. Due to procedural rules, the court is bound by the complaint and cannot consider the scientific studies that support Fitbit’s claim,” a Fitbit spokesperson said in a statement sent to Bloomberg BNA.
“These studies demonstrate that Fitbit trackers do track sleep. Fitbit trackers are not intended to be scientific or medical devices, but are designed to provide meaningful data to our users to help them reach their health and fitness goals. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and demonstrate that plaintiffs’ case has no merit.”
A separate suit against Fitbit challenges the wearables' heart-rate monitoring.
In that suit, McLellan v. Fitbit, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 16-00036, Fitbit contends an arbitration clause precludes the plaintiffs from suing in court.
The plaintiffs disagree (44 PSLR 447, 5/2/16).
In the heart-rate suit here, the proposed class definition was modified to include only Fitbit owners who are believed not to be bound by the clause.
Dworken & Bernstein CO., LPA and others represent the plaintiffs.
Morrison & Foerster LLP represents Fitbit.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at email@example.com
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