Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Citation88 F.Supp.2d 116
Docket NumberNo. 96 Civ. 9069(KMW).,No. 96 Civ. 5320(KMW).,96 Civ. 5320(KMW).,96 Civ. 9069(KMW).
PartiesJohn D.R. LEONARD, Plaintiff, v. PEPSICO, INC., Defendant.
Decision Date05 August 1999
88 F.Supp.2d 116
John D.R. LEONARD, Plaintiff,
PEPSICO, INC., Defendant.
No. 96 Civ. 5320(KMW).
No. 96 Civ. 9069(KMW).
United States District Court, S.D. New York.
August 5, 1999.

Page 117


KIMBA M. WOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff brought this action seeking, among other things, specific performance

Page 118

of an alleged offer of a Harrier Jet, featured in a television advertisement for defendant's "Pepsi Stuff" promotion. Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is granted.

I. Background

This case arises out of a promotional campaign conducted by defendant, the producer and distributor of the soft drinks Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. (See PepsiCo Inc.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ("Def. Stat.") ¶ 2.)1 The promotion, entitled "Pepsi Stuff," encouraged consumers to collect "Pepsi Points" from specially marked packages of Pepsi or Diet Pepsi and redeem these points for merchandise featuring the Pepsi logo. (See id. ¶¶ 4, 8.) Before introducing the promotion nationally, defendant conducted a test of the promotion in the Pacific Northwest from October 1995 to March 1996. (See id. ¶¶ 5-6.) A Pepsi Stuff catalog was distributed to consumers in the test market, including Washington State. (See id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff is a resident of Seattle, Washington. (See id. ¶ 3.) While living in Seattle, plaintiff saw the Pepsi Stuff commercial (see id. ¶ 22) that he contends constituted an offer of a Harrier Jet.

A. The Alleged Offer

Because whether the television commercial constituted an offer is the central question in this case, the Court will describe the commercial in detail. The commercial opens upon an idyllic, suburban morning, where the chirping of birds in sun-dappled trees welcomes a paperboy on his morning route. As the newspaper hits the stoop of a conventional two-story house, the tattoo of a military drum introduces the subtitle, "MONDAY 7:58 AM." The stirring strains of a martial air mark the appearance of a well-coiffed teenager preparing to leave for school, dressed in a shirt emblazoned with the Pepsi logo, a red-white-and-blue ball. While the teenager confidently preens, the military drumroll again sounds as the subtitle "T-SHIRT 75 PEPSI POINTS" scrolls across the screen. Bursting from his room, the teenager strides down the hallway wearing a leather jacket. The drumroll sounds again, as the subtitle "LEATHER JACKET 1450 PEPSI POINTS" appears. The teenager opens the door of his house and, unfazed by the glare of the early morning sunshine, puts on a pair of sunglasses. The drumroll then accompanies the subtitle "SHADES 175 PEPSI POINTS." A voiceover then intones, "Introducing the new Pepsi Stuff catalog," as the camera focuses on the cover of the catalog. (See Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Stat., Exh. A (the "Catalog").)2

The scene then shifts to three young boys sitting in front of a high school building. The boy in the middle is intent on his Pepsi Stuff Catalog, while the boys on either side are each drinking Pepsi. The three boys gaze in awe at an object rushing overhead, as the military march builds to a crescendo. The Harrier Jet is not yet visible, but the observer senses the presence of a mighty plane as the extreme winds generated by its flight create a paper maelstrom in a classroom devoted to an otherwise dull physics lesson. Finally,

Page 119

the Harrier Jet swings into view and lands by the side of the school building, next to a bicycle rack. Several students run for cover, and the velocity of the wind strips one hapless faculty member down to his underwear. While the faculty member is being deprived of his dignity, the voiceover announces: "Now the more Pepsi you drink, the more great stuff you're gonna get."

The teenager opens the cockpit of the fighter and can be seen, helmetless, holding a Pepsi. "[L]ooking very pleased with himself," (Pl. Mem. at 3,) the teenager exclaims, "Sure beats the bus," and chortles. The military drumroll sounds a final time, as the following words appear: "HARRIER FIGHTER 7,000,000 PEPSI POINTS." A few seconds later, the following appears in more stylized script: "Drink Pepsi — Get Stuff." With that message, the music and the commercial end with a triumphant flourish.

Inspired by this commercial, plaintiff set out to obtain a Harrier Jet. Plaintiff explains that he is "typical of the `Pepsi Generation' ... he is young, has an adventurous spirit, and the notion of obtaining a Harrier Jet appealed to him enormously." (Pl. Mem. at 3.) Plaintiff consulted the Pepsi Stuff Catalog. The Catalog features youths dressed in Pepsi Stuff regalia or enjoying Pepsi Stuff accessories, such as "Blue Shades" ("As if you need another reason to look forward to sunny days."), "Pepsi Tees" ("Live in `em. Laugh in `em. Get in `em."), "Bag of Balls" ("Three balls. One bag. No rules."), and "Pepsi Phone Card" ("Call your mom!"). The Catalog specifies the number of Pepsi Points required to obtain promotional merchandise. (See Catalog, at rear foldout pages.) The Catalog includes an Order Form which lists, on one side, fifty-three items of Pepsi Stuff merchandise redeemable for Pepsi Points (see id. (the "Order Form")). Conspicuously absent from the Order Form is any entry or description of a Harrier Jet. (See id.) The amount of Pepsi Points required to obtain the listed merchandise ranges from 15 (for a "Jacket Tattoo" ("Sew `em on your jacket, not your arm.")) to 3300 (for a "Fila Mountain Bike" ("Rugged. All-terrain. Exclusively for Pepsi.")). It should be noted that plaintiff objects to the implication that because an item was not shown in the Catalog, it was unavailable. (See Pl. Stat. ¶¶ 23-26, 29.)

The rear foldout pages of the Catalog contain directions for redeeming Pepsi Points for merchandise. (See Catalog, at rear foldout pages.) These directions note that merchandise may be ordered "only" with the original Order Form. (See id.) The Catalog notes that in the event that a consumer lacks enough Pepsi Points to obtain a desired item, additional Pepsi Points may be purchased for ten cents each; however, at least fifteen original Pepsi Points must accompany each order. (See id.)

Although plaintiff initially set out to collect 7,000,000 Pepsi Points by consuming Pepsi products, it soon became clear to him that he "would not be able to buy (let alone drink) enough Pepsi to collect the necessary Pepsi Points fast enough." (Affidavit of John D.R. Leonard, Mar. 30, 1999 ("Leonard Aff."), ¶ 5.) Reevaluating his strategy, plaintiff "focused for the first time on the packaging materials in the Pepsi Stuff promotion," (id.,) and realized that buying Pepsi Points would be a more promising option. (See id.) Through acquaintances, plaintiff ultimately raised about $700,000. (See id. ¶ 6.)

B. Plaintiff's Efforts to Redeem the Alleged Offer

On or about March 27, 1996, plaintiff submitted an Order Form, fifteen original Pepsi Points, and a check for $700,008.50. (See Def. Stat. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff appears to have been represented by counsel at the time he mailed his check; the check is drawn on an account of plaintiff's first set of attorneys. (See Defendant's Notice of Motion, Exh. B (first).) At the bottom of the Order Form, plaintiff wrote in "1 Harrier Jet" in the "Item" column and "7,000,000" in the "Total Points" column. (See id.) In a letter accompanying his submission,

Page 120

plaintiff stated that the check was to purchase additional Pepsi Points "expressly for obtaining a new Harrier jet as advertised in your Pepsi Stuff commercial." (See Declaration of David Wynn, Mar. 18, 1999 ("Wynn Dec."), Exh. A.)

On or about May 7, 1996, defendant's fulfillment house rejected plaintiff's submission and returned the check, explaining that:

The item that you have requested is not part of the Pepsi Stuff collection. It is not included in the catalogue or on the order form, and only catalogue merchandise can be redeemed under this program.

The Harrier jet in the Pepsi commercial is fanciful and is simply included to create a humorous and entertaining ad. We apologize for any misunderstanding or confusion that you may have experienced and are enclosing some free product coupons for your use.

(Wynn Aff. Exh. B (second).) Plaintiff's previous counsel responded on or about May 14, 1996, as follows:

Your letter of May 7, 1996 is totally unacceptable. We have reviewed the video tape of the Pepsi Stuff commercial ... and it clearly offers the new Harrier jet for 7,000,000 Pepsi Points. Our client followed your rules explicitly....

This is a formal demand that you honor your commitment and make immediate arrangements to transfer the new Harrier jet to our client. If we do not receive transfer instructions within ten (10) business days of the date of this letter you will leave us no choice but to file an appropriate action against Pepsi....

(Wynn Aff., Exh. C.) This letter was apparently sent onward to the advertising company responsible for the actual commercial, BBDO New York ("BBDO"). In a letter dated May 30, 1996, BBDO Vice President Raymond E. McGovern, Jr., explained to plaintiff that:

I find it hard to believe that you are of the opinion that the Pepsi Stuff commercial ("Commercial") really offers a new Harrier Jet. The use of the Jet was clearly a joke that was meant to make the Commercial more humorous and entertaining. In my opinion, no reasonable person would agree with your analysis of the Commercial.

(Wynn Aff. Exh. A.) On or about June 17, 1996, plaintiff mailed a similar demand letter to defendant. (See Wynn Aff., Exh. D.)

Litigation of this case initially involved two lawsuits, the first a declaratory judgment action brought by PepsiCo in this district (the "declaratory judgment action"), and the second an action brought by Leonard in Florida state court (the "Florida action").3 PepsiCo brought suit in this Court on July 18, 1996, seeking a declaratory judgment...

To continue reading

Request your trial
31 cases
  • Zanakis-Pico v. Cutter Dodge, Inc., 22987.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • June 14, 2002
    ...a designated bank for surrender pursuant to clearly specified terms constituted a binding contractual offer); Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116, 124 (S.D.N.Y.1999) (holding that "the absence of any words of limitation[,] such as `first come, first served,' [rendered] the alleged of......
  • Dealtime.Com v. McNulty
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 13, 2000
    ...the plaintiff alleges only that the defendant entered into a contract with no intention of performing it"); Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116, 132 (S.D.N.Y.1999) (same); New York University v. Continental Ins. Co., 87 N.Y.2d 308, 318, 639 N.Y.S.2d 283, 289, 662 N.E.2d 763 (N.Y. 199......
  • LaRoss Partners, LLC v. Contact 911 Inc., 11–CV–1980 (ADS)(ARL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • July 10, 2012
    ...Bridgestone/Firestone is not satisfied simply because a jury could find that there was no contract.” (citing Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116 (S.D.N.Y.1999)). Therefore, the Court need not assess whether the Plaintiff's fraud allegations are not pled with the requisite particulari......
  • Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 15, 2012
    ...decisions have applied this general rule to customer rewards programs similar to the Camel Cash program, see Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116, 122–27 (S.D.N.Y.1999); Alligood v. Procter & Gamble Co., 72 Ohio App.3d 309, 594 N.E.2d 668, 668–70 (1991) (per curiam), [697 F.3d 786]and......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • Four Thoughts On Pepsi, Where's My Jet?
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • January 5, 2023
    ...ultimately prevailed in the litigation that ensued when the soft-drink company denied Leonard's claim. See Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F. Supp.2d 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). Here are four thoughts that I had on the series as someone who practices consumer Brief Background The Pepsi Stuff promotio......
1 books & journal articles
  • Contracts, Constitutions, and Getting the Interpretation-construction Distinction Right
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy No. 18-1, January 2020
    • January 1, 2020
    ...interpretation, 46. The two classic teaching cases for joking offers are Lucy v. Zehmer, 84 S.E.2d 516 (1954) and Leonard v. Pepsico, 88 F.Supp.2d 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). For sales talk, see U.C.C. § 2-313(2). (AM. LAW INST. & UNIF. LAW COMM’N 2010). 47. Embry v. Hargadine, McKittrick Dry Good......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT