Suit against Fitbit over devices claiming to track heart beat can proceed, federal judge rules

By John Breslin | Jun 21, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently ruled that a suit alleging Fitbit made inaccurate marketing claims regarding its wristband devices that track user heart beat can continue but agreed to dismiss allegations that the company attempted to unjustly enrich itself.

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently ruled that a suit alleging Fitbit made inaccurate marketing claims regarding its wristband devices that track user heart beat can continue but agreed to dismiss allegations that the company attempted to unjustly enrich itself.

Rob Dunn and other plaintiffs filed suit claiming Fitbit "misled consumers" when touting that its wristband devices were able to track heart rate while the users were running.

"Specifically, Dunn alleges that although Fitbit marketed its 'PurePulse' technology as providing accurate, real-time heart monitoring, particularly during exercise, user experience and independent research show that PurePulse-equipped devices are grossly inaccurate and frequently fail to record any heart rate at all," U.S. District Judge James Donato said in his June 5 order in response to Fitbit's motion for dismissal.

Dunn and others are suing under the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), the California False Advertising Law (FAL) and the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). They are accusing the company of common-law fraud, fraud in the inducement, unjust enrichment, breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranties. 

Fitbit asked the court to dismiss the claims because of a lack of specifics.

"The court dismisses the unjust enrichment claim," Donato ordered. "The motion to dismiss is otherwise denied, subject to Dunn’s representation that he will amend the complaint to include product packaging statements and allegations of reliance."

Fitbit argued that some of the claims they made for the wristband, such as "every beat counts," were "inactionable puffery."

But the judge ruled that "the complaint is replete with examples of actionable 'misdescriptions of specific or absolute characteristics of a product.'"

Further, the judge stated, "According to the complaint, the ability to record heart rate in real time and during physical activity is marketed as a key feature of the PurePulse devices, yet in reality the products frequently fail to record any heart rate at all or provide highly inaccurate readings, with discrepancies of up to 75 bpm.

"Those facts indicate that the devices lack even a basic degree of fitness for use as exercise or activity monitors," the ruling said.

Donato added, "The unjust enrichment claim is dismissed with prejudice. Provided that Dunn revises his complaint to include product packaging statements and allegations of reliance, Dunn may proceed with his claims under the CLRA, FAL, UCL, common-law fraud, fraud in the inducement, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranties."

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