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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Herndon dismisses class action alleging damages from shortened massages

By Todd Barnett | Jun 28, 2017

BENTON — A class action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs in Missouri and Illinois accusing Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, of causing injury to its clients and using unfair and deceptive practices was dismissed in federal court on June 9.

District Judge David R. Herndon dismissed the class action lawsuit brought by Kathy Haywood of East St. Louis and Lia Holt of Missouri. 

Holt and Haywood alleged that they and other customers of Massage Envy Franchising (MEF), a franchisor based in Scottsdale, Ariz., had been injured and deceived by the company because they received only 50 minutes of actual massage time during sessions advertised as one-hour. 

The plaintiffs allege that MEF franchises in O’Fallon, Ill., and Oakville, Mo., failed to properly notify customers that roughly 10 minutes of each one-hour session would be used for consultation and dressing.

Herndon found that the “MEF cannot be held liable for the actions of independent franchisee’s employees.” 

Additionally, Herndon ruled that neither plaintiff could show that they suffered actual pecuniary loss or injury according to Illinois or Missouri statutes. 

Consequently, Herndon dismissed the case with prejudice.

Haywood claimed she visited the O’Fallon Massage Envy franchise on May 11, 2016, after receiving a $75 e-gift card from her daughter. 

According to the MEF website, the gift card was enough to pay for a one-hour massage session. 

Haywood reportedly only received 50 minutes of actual massage time. Afterward, Haywood booked a second appointment at the same franchise on Sept. 8, 2016, and experienced the same result. 

Although she said the gift card stated that each session included “time for consultation and dressing,” Haywood claimed this information appeared only in fine print at the bottom of the email containing the gift card, and was not made publicly available by employees or signs posted onsite. 

Haywood subsequently filed a class action complaint against MEF on Sept. 27, 2016.

Holt booked a one-hour massage appointment at the Oakville Massage Envy franchise sometime around April 2012. 

She also claimed she only received about 50 minutes of massage time. 

On Nov. 14, 2016, Holt and Haywood together filed an amended complaint on behalf of Missouri and Illinois consumers, alleging MEF violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (ICFA) and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) through the use of unfair and deceptive practices. MEF filed a motion to Dismiss and Strike on Dec. 15, 2016.

On June 12, Herndon granted MEF’s motion for dismissal. 

While noting that MEF encouraged franchise employees to speak with customers about the time given to dressing and consultation in each massage session, Herndon found that MEF could not be held liable for the failure of employees at individual franchises to do so. 

He also found that Haywood’s “disappointment does not rise to the level of actual damages under the ICFA” and therefore, “her claim must be dismissed for failure to state an ICFA violation.” 

Similarly, Herndon dismissed Holt’s claims, citing that she failed to prove according to the MMPA that “she received a value that was worth less than what she paid, and therefore, cannot show the existence of a substantial injury to herself or others.” 

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois case number 3:16-cv-01087-DRH-SCW.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois