Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.

Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F. Supp. 2d 116, (S.D.N.Y. 1999), aff'd 210 F.3d 88 (2d Cir. 2000), more widely known as the Pepsi Points Case, is a contracts case tried in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1999, in which the plaintiff, John Leonard, sued PepsiCo, Inc. in an effort to enforce an "offer" to redeem 7,000,000 Pepsi Points for an AV-8 Harrier II jump jet, which PepsiCo had shown in a portion of a televised commercial that PepsiCo argued was intended to be humorous. The plaintiff did not collect 7,000,000 Pepsi Points through the purchase of Pepsi products, but instead sent a certified check for $700,008.50 as permitted by the contest rules. Leonard had 15 existing points, paid $0.10 a point for the remaining 6,999,985 points, and a $10 shipping and handling fee.

Among other claims made, Leonard claimed that a federal judge was incapable of deciding on the matter, and that instead the decision had to be made by a jury consisting of members of the "Pepsi Generation" to whom the advertisement would allegedly constitute an offer.

In justifying its conclusion that the commercial was "evidently done in jest" and that "The notion of traveling to school in a Harrier Jet is an exaggerated adolescent fantasy," the court made several observations regarding the nature and content of the commercial. These included (among others) that:
  • "The callow youth featured in the commercial is a highly improbable pilot, one who could barely be trusted with the keys to his parents' car, much less the prize aircraft of the United States Marine Corps."
  • "The teenager's comment that flying a Harrier Jet to school 'sure beats the bus' evinces an improbably insouciant attitude toward the relative difficulty and danger of piloting a fighter plane in a residential area."
  • "No school would provide landing space for a student's fighter jet, or condone the disruption the jet's use would cause."

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