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Tomassini v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 23, 2015

ROBERT TOMASSINI, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC, Defendant.

ELMER ROBERT KEACH, III, ESQ., LAW OFFICES OF ELMER, ROBERT KEACH III, P.C., Albany, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

JORDAN L. CHAIKIN, ESQ., PETER J. CAMBS, SR., ESQ., PARKER WAICHMAN LLP, Naples, Florida, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

NICHOLAS A. MIGLIACCIO, ESQ., WHITFIELD BRYSON & MASON, LLP, Washington, District of Columbia, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

ALAN J. POPE, ESQ., POPE & SCHRADER, LLP, Binghamton, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.

JOHN W. ROGERS, ESQ., KATHY A. WISNIEWSKI, ESQ., STEPHEN A. D'AUNOY, ESQ., THOMPSON COBURN LLP, St. Louis, Missouri, Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this putative class action on September 8, 2014, alleging violations of New York General Business Law ("N.Y.G.B.L.") § 349 and breach of express warranty related to Defendant's use of metal alloy valve stems within the tire pressure monitoring system ("TPMS") on certain minivans. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2-32 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the alternative, to strike Plaintiff's class allegations. See Dkt. No. 7. Plaintiff has opposed Defendant's motion. See Dkt. No. 17.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

In or about April 2012, Plaintiff purchased a used 2010 Town and Country minivan manufactured by Defendant ("the Minivan") from a wholesale dealer in New York. See Complaint at ¶¶ 9, 14. At the time of Plaintiff's purchase, the Minivan had approximately 37, 000 miles on it. Id. at ¶ 14. The Minivan was equipped with a TPMS which reports real-time tire-pressure information to the Minivan's driver by utilizing pressure sensors that transmit pressure information to the vehicle's instrument cluster. Id. at ¶ 2. The Minivan's TPMS contained a metal alloy valve stem on each tire. Id. at ¶ 1.

When originally sold, the Minivan was covered by an express Limited Basic Warranty. See id. at ¶ 42. The Limited Basic Warranty contained a durational limitation which limited it to whichever occurred first of thirty-six months or 36, 000 miles from the earlier of the date the original purchaser took delivery of the vehicle or the date the vehicle was first put into service. See id.; Dkt. No. 7-3 at 8-9. The Limited Basic Warranty was also limited in scope to "cover[ing] the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair any item on [the] vehicle when it left the manufacturing plant that is defective in material, workmanship or factory preparation." Dkt. No. 7-3 at 7.

On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff observed that the Minivan's left rear tire was rapidly losing air. Complaint at ¶ 16. At that time, the Minivan had approximately 47, 000 miles on it. Id. Plaintiff brought the Minivan to an automotive repair shop in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where a mechanic determined that the valve stem on the Minivan's left rear tire had corroded to the point where it could no longer hold air in the tire. Id. Plaintiff paid the repair shop $128.35 to replace the valve stem. Id.

On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff observed that the Minivan's right rear tire was losing air and brought the Minivan to an auto repair shop in Endicott, New York. Id. at ¶ 17. On that date, the Minivan had approximately 56, 000 miles on it. Id. A mechanic at the repair shop determined that the tire valve stem had corroded and needed to be replaced. Id. Plaintiff paid the repair shop $13.50 to replace the metal alloy valve stem with a non-TPMS-compatible rubber valve stem. Id.

Plaintiff sought reimbursement from Defendant for the expenses he incurred to replace the Minivan's two failed valve stems. Complaint at ¶ 18. Defendant refused to provide reimbursement. Id. Plaintiff also sought information from Defendant regarding the availability of a rubber TPMS-compatible valve stem and learned that no such part existed for the Minivan. Id.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation ("NHTSA-ODI") collects complaints from consumers regarding problems with their vehicles or vehicle equipment via its public website. See id. at ¶ 20. Since July 2009, the NHTSA-ODI has received almost one hundred and thirty complains pertaining to failed valve stems in model year 2008 through 2011 minivans manufactured by Defendant that are equipped with a TPMS. See id. at ¶ 23. Multiple complaints included allegations that the consumer directly contacted Defendant regarding the valve stem failures and was informed by Defendant that Defendant would not pay for or reimburse the consumer for the repairs. See id. at ¶¶ 24-25. Some consumers reported being informed by Defendant's dealerships that the valve stem failure was a common problem and experiencing repair delays because the replacement TPMS valve stems were on back order. See id. at ¶¶ 26-28. A number of consumers reported that the valve stem failure caused their tires to deflate instantly and without warning. See id. at ¶¶ 31-32, 35. Numerous consumers also reported that the failure of the valve stem destroyed their tires. See id. at ¶ 37.

In October 2010, Transport Canada opened an investigation into the failure of tire valve stems due to corrosion on vehicles including model year 2008-2009 Chrysler Town & Country minivans and 2008-2009 Dodge Caravans. See id. at ¶ 6. In 2011, Defendant changed the design of its TPMS valve stems from metal alloy to corrosion-resistant rubber material. See id. at ¶ 39.

On September 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant class action complaint on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated in New York State Supreme Court, Broome County. Plaintiff defined the class which he seeks to represent as "[a]ll residents of the State of New York who purchased and/or leased the following Chrysler Minivans: (a) the 2008-2011 Chrysler Town & Country; and (b) the 2008-2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, which were first sold or leased as new vehicles on or after June 10, 2009." Id. at ¶ 45. Plaintiff's complaint alleges two causes of action: (1) unfair and deceptive trade practice in violation of N.Y.G.B.L. § 349 and (2) breach of express warranty. See id. at ¶¶ 55-81. Plaintiff seeks damages and "a declaratory judgment requiring [Defendant] to warn all purchasers and potential purchasers of Chrysler Minivans about the defective TPMS valve stems." Id. at ¶¶ 64-65, 81, 85.

Defendant removed the instant case to this Court on October 8, 2014, pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). See Dkt. No. 1. On October 15, 2014, Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or, in the alternative, to strike Plaintiff's class allegations. See Dkt. No. 7.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Failure to State a Claim

1. Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief and pleadings without considering the substantive merits of the case. See Global Network Commc'ns, Inc. v. City of New York, 458 F.3d 150, 155 (2d Cir. 2006). In considering the legal sufficiency, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the pleading and draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor. See ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This presumption of truth, however, does not extend to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a party need only plead "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), with sufficient factual "heft to sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief[, ]'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Under this standard, the pleading's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and present claims that are "plausible on [their] face, " id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief."'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Ultimately, "when the allegations in a ...


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