Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kupferstein v. TJX Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 13, 2017

SUSAN KUPFERSTEIN, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE TJX COMPANIES, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          NINAGERSG, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Susan Kupferstein, asserting diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), brings this putative class action, alleging a single claim against Defendant The TJX Companies, Inc. ("TJX") for deceptive and fraudulent business practices under New York General Business Law § 349. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, actual damages, statutory damages, costs, and reasonable attorney's fees. Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiffs amended complaint with prejudice pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted for failure to state a claim.

         PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff is a citizen of New York. Am. TJX is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Massachusetts. TJX does business as TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods. Its customers can register for membership accounts through the TJX Rewards program. TJX then issues TJX Rewards Certificates, or coupons, to members who have accumulated qualifying purchases. Members can use these coupons to purchase products at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods stores. Plaintiff alleges in her amended complaint that, in April or May of 2015, TJX issued her a coupon in the amount of $10. On May 6, 2015, she made a purchase at a Marshalls store in New York using her $10 coupon. Because she used a coupon, plaintiff alleges, TJX charged her "an undisclosed fee of $1.60, designated as a 'sales tax, ' calculated on the full amount of the purchase, before deducting the amount of the coupon." As a result, she did not receive the full benefit of her coupon as advertised, but rather $10 minus the amount of the fee.

         On October 13, 2015, plaintiff originally filed this lawsuit seeking to recover "overcharges of sales tax" by TJX. In her original complaint, plaintiff explained that, on May 6, 2015, she made a purchase at a Marshalls store in New York for $17.98 of taxable items using her $10 coupon. After applying the coupon, the purchase came out to $7.98. New York law requires retailers to calculate sales taxes on the discounted price of a purchase. TJX, however, calculated the tax on the full amount of plaintiff s purchase before deducting the discount. As a result, TJX charged plaintiff $1.60 in sales taxes - $0.90 more than the $0.70 that TJX was authorized to collect by New York law. With her complaint, she included the sales receipt for her purchase, which states that plaintiff was charged $1.60 in sales tax.

         TJX, in a letter requesting a pre-motion conference, argued that plaintiffs suit is barred by New York law because, under New York Tax Law §§ 1139-40, there is an exclusive administrative remedy for taxpayers seeking a refund of any tax that was "erroneously, illegally or unconstitutionally collected or paid, " requiring plaintiff to submit her claim to the State Tax Commission. Alerted to this provision of New York tax law, plaintiff amended her complaint in a seeming effort to sidestep this exclusive administrative remedy under the New York tax law. Plaintiff changed the way she described the same charge by TJX, so that instead of a sales tax overcharge, her amended complaint characterizes the charge, as explained above, as "an undisclosed fee of $1.60, designated as a 'sales tax.'" Furthermore, she omitted any mention in her amended complaint of the proper way to calculate sales taxes under New York law or of the allegedly correct amount of sales tax of $0.70 that TJX was authorized to collect. She also neglected to include her sales receipt, which clearly marked the $1.60 charge as a sales tax. However, the amount of this "undisclosed fee, " according to plaintiff, varies with the purchase price so that the greater the purchase price, the greater the fee -just like a sales tax.

         Plaintiff claims that TJX engaged in deceptive and fraudulent business practices by charging this "fee" and giving plaintiff a smaller discount than advertised on the face of the coupon. TJX responds that, despite plaintiffs change in language, her claim is that she was overcharged in sales tax. TJX now moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that New York State offers an exclusive administrative remedy for tax refund claims, arguing that in amending the complaint, plaintiff is merely seeking to couch what is really a sales tax overcharge claim as a claim for hidden fees. In addition, TJX moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that, even if the exclusive administrative remedy does not bar her suit, plaintiff has failed to plausibly allege that TJX failed to remit any amount it collected as a sales tax to the taxing authorities.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must allege "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Tsirelman v. Dairies, 794 F.3d 310, 313 (2d Cir. 2015). However, a pleading consisting only of "labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)).

         Furthermore, the court may "draw on its experience and common sense" in reviewing a complaint, and is not bound by the labels plaintiff uses. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

         While consideration on a motion to dismiss is typically limited to the four corners of an amended complaint, a court is not required to "turn a blind eye to [a plaintiffs] previous filings." Kupferstein v. Wakefern, No. 15-cv-5828, at 4 (E.D.N.Y. May 13, 2016); accord Mingues v. Nelson, 2004 WL 324898, at *3 (S.D.N.Y.Feb. 20, 2004). Accordingly, I will consider plaintiffs original complaint, as well as the sales receipt attached to her original complaint, to provide context for her current claim.

         II. New York Tax Law Provides an Exclusive Administrative Remedy for Tax Payers Seeking Refunds for Taxes that Were Illegally or Erroneously Collected

         TJX's "collection of [] sales tax[es] constitutes 'merely a ministerial act.'" Cohen v. Hertz, 2013 WL 9450421, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 26, 2013) (quoting Davidson v. Rochester Tel. Corp.,163 A.D.2d 800, 802 (3d Dep't 1990)). Once it collects the tax, TJX's "responsibility ends" and "a dissatisfied taxpayer's recourse is [] against the taxing body." Id. (internal alterations and quotation marks omitted). New York Tax Law § 1139 provides taxpayers an administrative remedy to seek a refund of any tax "erroneously, illegally or unconstitutionally collected or paid" from the New York Tax Commission, and that administrative remedy for seeking a refund is exclusive. N.Y. Tax Law § 1140; Cohen, 2013 WL 9450421, at *3. Section 1140 further provides that a court may review a determination by the Tax Commission only in an action pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. See Schultz v. Hudson News Distribs., LLC, 2015 WL 6087595, at *2 (Sup. Ct., N.Y. County, Oct. 16, 2015). Therefore, a court may not hear claims such as this of erroneously or illegally collected or paid New York. Kupferstei ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.