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Owen F. Silvious v. Snapple Beverage Corporation

June 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge


This action, removed from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process, and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant correctly argues that the complaint is barred by the District of Columbia's three-year statute of limitations. Hence, the Court, finding that it has jurisdiction over the case, will grant defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).*fn1


The relevant facts are as follows. On March 1, 2011, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. He alleges that defendant, Snapple Beverage Corporation, "violated a 'trade practice law' of the District of Columbia . . . ," Compl. ¶ 1, namely, the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA"), D.C. Code §§ 28-3901 et seq.. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that between August 31, 2003 and January 31, 2005, he purchased defendant's products on at least 50 separate occasions in the District of Columbia that "he thought" were "All Natural products when in fact [they] were not all natural." Id. ¶¶ 3, 9. Although plaintiff does not identify the specific products he purchased, he alleges generally that defendant advertised its fruit drinks and ice tea drinks as all natural "when in fact they . . . contained High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a highly processed sugar substitute." Id.

¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that, at the time of his purchases, "he did not know that HFCS was not an all natural ingredient" and that he "only discovered the [statutory] violations . . . in December 2010 when he read" a decision issued by the Eastern District of California. Id. ¶ 9 (citing Von Koenig v. Snapple, 713 F. Supp. 2d 1066 (E.D. Cal. 2010)). He alleges that "he received something less than what he actually paid for at the time he purchased defendants' products in the District of Columbia." Id. ¶ 3.

Defendant removed the case to this Court on March 28, 2011, and filed the instant motion to dismiss on April 4, 2011. On April 14, 2011, plaintiff filed an amended pleading to "[a]mend[] certain portions of the Original Complaint . . . ." Amended Pleading (Complaint) [Dkt. # 8] at 1. He substituted, inter alia, paragraph 17 of the original complaint as follows:

Plaintiff ask [sic] this court to enter judgment against [Snapple] for statutory civil penalties for violation of the [CPPA] in the amount of $225,000.00 in favor of plaintiff . . . . The statutory civil penalties are payable because defendant violated the Act, not because plaintiff might have been injured or suffered any actual damages.

In fact plaintiff does not have to be injured or suffer any actual damages for an award of damages.

Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff seeks to have any award of damages distributed as follows: 20 percent each to the District of Columbia branches of the Salvation Army, United Way, and the American Red Cross, 20 percent to the Mayor's Office for distribution to homeless shelters in the District, 10 percent to the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund, and 10 percent to himself "after payment of all fees, costs and expenses of this action. Id. ¶ 5.


As an initial matter, plaintiff asserts that defendant's motion to dismiss should be denied as moot in light of his filing of the amended complaint. See generally Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Original Compl. [Dkt. # 9]. Given that plaintiff made it clear that he was amending "certain portions" of the original complaint and proffered no superseding amended complaint, his assertion is baseless. The Court considers the original complaint and the amended pleading together as the operative complaint. See Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548-49 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (in construing pro se filings liberally, courts should read all of the pro se party's filings together).

1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendant argues that dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(1) because plaintiff lacks standing to sue. Because "[t]he defect of standing is a defect in subject matter jurisdiction," Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987), the Court must resolve this issue first. AT&T Corp. v. FCC, 317 F.3d 227, 237 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Article III of the U.S. Constitution "limits the 'judicial power' of the United States to the resolution of 'cases' and 'controversies,' " Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Am. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982), and the doctrine of standing serves to identify those " 'Cases' and 'Controversies' that are of the justiciable sort referred to in Article III," Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). To establish the "irreducible constitutional minimum of standing," a plaintiff must allege (1) an "injury in fact," defined as "an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized," and (b) "actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical"; (2) "a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of"; and (3) a likelihood "that the injury will be redressed by a ...

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