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Anthony Twardowski and Eitan Blanc Secure Judgment for Client in Consumer Protection Class Action

May 3, 2019

In a unanimous decision from the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, Anthony Twardowski and Eitan Blanc secured the reversal of orders from the trial court entering judgment in favor of the plaintiff and certifying a class consisting of nearly 40,000 members.  The case was brought by a member of a Planet Fitness gym facility who claimed that Planet Fitness’s membership agreement contained provisions in violation of New Jersey law.  Recovery was sought under New Jersey’s Truth in Consumer Contract Warranty and Notice Act, which forbids any seller of goods or services in New Jersey from including in their written contracts any provision that violates a “clearly established legal right of a consumer.”  Under the Act, an “aggrieved consumer” is entitled to a statutory penalty of $100 per violation, plus her attorneys’ fees.  Over Anthony’s and Eitan’s vigorous objections, the trial court found that plaintiff was an aggrieved consumer and that a release clause in Planet Fitness’s membership agreement was broader than permitted by New Jersey law.  The trial court accordingly entered judgment in plaintiff’s favor and against Planet Fitness.  The trial court also certified the case as a class action, meaning that each of the nearly 40,000 members would be entitled to an award of $100, exposing Planet Fitness to a nearly $4 million liability if the trial court’s decisions were upheld, plus substantial attorneys’ fees.  In their briefs to the Appellate Division and at oral argument, Anthony and Eitan painstakingly explained why, under the law and the facts, plaintiff was not an “aggrieved consumer” and why the Planet Fitness membership agreement did not violate any clearly established legal right.  Adopting those arguments, the Appellate Division unanimously concluded that plaintiff was not aggrieved and accordingly reversed the entry of judgment in plaintiff’s favor and further reversed the order certifying a class.  Because the Court concluded that plaintiff was not aggrieved, which was sufficient to support reversal, the Appellate Division declined to address the trial court’s erroneous conclusion that the membership agreement violated a clearly established legal right.  The Appellate Division remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to enter judgment in favor of Planet Fitness, thus ending a multi-year legal battle and eliminating in its entirety a multi-million dollar potential liability.        

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