7th Circuit Opinion in Beaton v. SpeedyPC Affirming Class Certification Order

Where district court did not err when it certified a class of consumers of software that promised to improve the function of their computers, and then ran worthless fixes. The appellate panel found that the class requirements were satisfied because all consumers saw the same advertisements, and the software allegedly functioned the same on every user’s machine.

Archie Beaton saw an advertisement on the internet for SpeedyPC Pro software. The advertisement suggested that SpeedyPC Pro could improve the performance of a user’s computer, and offered a free test to check the user’s machine for flaws. Beaton downloaded a free trial of the software and ran its test on his machine. The test reported hundreds of errors, and told Beaton that purchase of the full version of the software could fix the errors and improve performance. Beaton dutifully purchased the full version of the software, but after running its fix feature several times, nothing changed on his machine.

Beaton later sued SpeedyPC in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois. Beaton filed a class action, alleging that SpeedyPC fraudulently told all users of its software that their computers were in need of fixes, and then, after the users bought the full version of SpeedyPC Pro, performed functionally worthless fixes. Beaton defined the class in his case as that of “all individuals and entities in the United States who purchased SpeedyPC Pro.” He also defined a subclass representing only Illinois consumers. The district court certified Beaton’s proposed class and subclass for claims of the breach of implied warranties of fitness and merchantability, and claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for the subclass. SpeedyPC filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the class certification.

The 7th Circuit stated that in order for a class to be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a district court was required to analyze whether the class met the requirements of numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of representation. The appellate panel noted that SpeedyPC had conceded that the numerosity requirement was met, and challenged only the last three requirements of Rule 23. The panel found that commonality was easily satisfied, as the questions regarding the advertising and functioning of SpeedyPC Pro identified by the district court were common to all members of the class, and were amenable to class representation. The panel pointed to the low amount of damages each consumer would be entitled to if the case was resolved in their favor, stating that no individuals would pursue litigation outside of a class context in pursuit of such limited damages.

The panel then turned to the typicality and adequacy of representation requirements. The panel found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the class and subclass met these requirements. The panel noted that Beaton saw the same advertisement as other users, even though the ads ran on multiple sources across the internet. The panel found that this meant that all class members were exposed to the same promises on behalf of SpeedyPC. The court also found that Beaton was an adequate representative for the class and that the law firm representing the class had no conflicts of interest. The panel, therefore, affirmed the district court’s certification decision. You can read the full decision here.

Our Oak Brook, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocatesthe National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.

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