HVAC Heater Case Won’t Be Heating Up: Dismissal Affirmed

The Eleventh Circuit’s decision on Monday in Warren Technology, Inc. v. UL LLC, 2020 WL 3406585 (11th Cir. June 22, 2020), turned on the basic question of whether the complaint’s allegation of a misrepresentation was a fact that needed to be accepted as true or could be ignored as a mere conclusory allegation. Defendant UL LLC is a nationally recognized testing laboratory that tests HVAC heaters and authorizes the manufacturer to use its certification mark on compliant products. The plaintiff heater manufacturer’s complaint was simple: UL made a misrepresentation of fact by certifying heaters that did not in fact comply. But the allegations supporting this theory were more complicated—that is, they hinged on an interpretation of the compliance exceptions relating to when an automatically-resetting temperature control needed to be installed.

Any way you examined these allegations, the Eleventh Circuit reasoned, required an interpretation of the UL standard. This was a legal exercise, just as surely as conformance with a statute requires a court to interpret that statute. While the plaintiff’s claims (of false advertising and state and federal unfair competition) all needed to allege a misrepresentation, they were really no more than allegations of misinterpretations of the applicable standard. And an interpretation of the standard, even a wrong one, did not equate to a deceptive act as required for the success of any of the plaintiff’s claims.

Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the whole case for failure to state a claim.

Posted by Keith Emanuel.

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