Lawsuit over Duracell batteries guarantee is thrown out

Used Duracell batteries are seen in an office in Kiev April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Anatolii Stepanov

(Reuters) - A federal judge threw out a lawsuit accusing Procter & Gamble Co PG.N of misleading consumers by guaranteeing that Duracell batteries would not fail for 10 years, when in fact the batteries might leak when used or stored normally.

In a decision late Tuesday night, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, rejected claims in the proposed class-action lawsuit that P&G and its Gillette unit defrauded consumers in ads and packaging for Coppertop batteries containing “Duralock Power Preserve” technology.

Koh said reasonable consumers would understand that P&G’s representation that the batteries were “guaranteed for 10 years in storage” was a warranty to repair, replace or refund batteries that failed within that timeframe, and not a promise that the batteries “have no potential to leak.”

She also said in her 33-page decision that the complaint did not identify any cause, including any design or manufacturing defect, as to why the batteries might leak.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N bought the Duracell business from Cincinnati-based P&G on Feb. 29.

Six law firms filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiff Renee Punian of San Jose, who said she would not have paid a “premium price” for the batteries had she known they might leak.

Lawyers for Punian could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. P&G had no immediate comment.

The case is Punian v Gillette Co et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-05028.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, editing by G Crosse