Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Man Sues Pepsi For Refusing Him Jet Fighter He Says He Earned

Associated Press

John Leonard collected his Pepsi points and now he wants his prize. A fighter jet. And he’s not kidding.

The 21-year-old business student sued PepsiCo Inc. on Tuesday, demanding that the soft-drink maker give him a Harrier fighter jet like the one pictured in a Pepsi Stuff TV commercial.

“I am simply trying to take Pepsi up on an offer it made to the public,” Leonard said.

Pepsi maintains the commercial was a spoof and says it has a perfect right to use humor in its advertising.

“If we have to put disclaimers on spots that are obviously farces, where does it end?” Pepsi spokesman Jon Harris said.

Leonard’s lawsuit, filed in Dade County, Fla., Circuit Court, accuses Pepsi of breach of contract, fraud, deceptive and unfair trade practices, and misleading advertising.

In October, Leonard, a student at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, saw a commercial about the Pepsi Stuff promotion, in which customers who had racked up points by drinking Pepsi beverages could claim a variety of prizes. As a joke, the company also “offered” the $70 million fighter jet for 7 million points.

Leonard, who didn’t want to drink that much Pepsi, said he called the company and was told he could buy Pepsi points for 10 cents each.

Leonard, of suburban Lynnwood, rounded up five investors who committed to put up the $700,000 he needed to claim his prize.

On March 28, Leonard delivered to Pepsi 15 original Pepsi Points plus a check for $700,008.50 for the remaining 6,999,985 points, “plus shipping and handling,” the lawsuit says.

“Surprisingly, on May 7, 1996, Pepsi … failed and refused to process the items, … and more importantly failed and refused to provide the new Harrier jet to Leonard,” the suit says.

Two more attempts to submit the Pepsi Points and check also were rebuffed, the suit says.

After Leonard threatened to sue, the company filed a pre-emptive suit July 18 in federal court in New York, seeking to have his claims declared frivolous and seeking reimbursement for the company’s legal fees.

Leonard has denied his actions are a publicity stunt or an attempt to get Pepsi to settle out of court. He saw the plane as an entrepreneurial venture, saying perhaps he could take customers on thrill rides.

The sides met last week to try to resolve the dispute, but failed.