As Americans face drastic changes to their daily routines due to the coronavirus, a South Florida plaintiff has brought a class action lawsuit against LA Fitness, alleging counts of unjust enrichment and negligence for LA Fitness’ alleged refusal to refund its members’ monthly fees.
In his complaint, Kip Barnett alleges that, at the beginning of March, he paid his LA Fitness membership fee. Due to the coronavirus, however, on March 16, LA Fitness closed its facilities for the remainder of the month. LA Fitness then notified its customers that all billing would be suspended, but not until April 1, 2020. Barnett then demanded LA Fitness to refund him and all its members their March fees. LA Fitness responded with an apology and an offer of two options: (1) a free additional one-month extension to the end of the membership; or (2) a three-month membership to give to a friend or family member. Yet, in order to redeem the offer, members are allegedly required to click on a hyperlink redirecting them to LA Fitness’ website and terms and conditions, which contains a “limitation of liability” provision.
Barnett then brought this lawsuit on behalf of the following class: “All persons who paid to Defendant [LA Fitness] membership fees for the month of March 2020 and have not received reimbursement for the time period of March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 during which Defendant’s facilities were closed.” Barnett first asserts an unjust enrichment count, alleging that LA Fitness voluntarily accepted and retained the benefits conferred upon it by Barnett and the class members even after it voluntarily closed its facilities. Thus, LA Fitness had been unjustly enriched and is required to refund Barnett and the class members the benefits they conferred. Barnett then asserts a negligence count, alleging that LA Fitness had a duty to Barnett and the class members to provide fitness facility services in exchange for the membership dues it collected from them for the month of March 2020; thus, LA Fitness breached this duty by failing to provide services from March 16, 2020, through March 31, 2020, and by failing to reimburse Barnett and the class members the membership fees that they paid.
This lawsuit comes at a time when lawyers are bracing for consumer class actions as COVID-19 hits pocketbooks and class action lawsuits related to the coronavirus have already spiked. This trend is likely more than just a warmup, and we can expect to see more class actions of a similar nature in the coming months.