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Lohr v. Nissan North America, Inc

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 17, 2017

TAMARA LOHR and RAVIKIRAN SINDOGI, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC., and NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART NISSAN'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Nissan North America, Inc.'s (“Nissan”) Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. #22. The Court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Nissan's motion in part and DENIES it in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Tamara Lohr and Ravikiran Sindogi allege that panoramic sunroofs available on several 2008 to 2016 car models manufactured by Defendant Nissan and Defendant Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. (collectively “Defendants”) are defectively designed and can spontaneously shatter. Dkt. #12 ¶¶ 3, 11-27. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants are aware of the panoramic sunroofs' defective design and, instead of warning consumers, choose to conceal the defect. Id. ¶¶ 27-32, 39-43, 51, 58-60, 63, 70. Plaintiffs also claim that Defendants benefit from the concealment of the panoramic sunroof design defect because it enables them to benefit from lease and sale of vehicles to “unwitting consumers.” See id. ¶¶ 42, 52. Plaintiffs also allege that the concealment of this design defect allows Defendants to systematically deny coverage when a customer's defective panoramic sunroof shatters. See id. ¶¶ 44-47. Both Ms. Lohr and Mr. Sindogi claim the panoramic sunroofs of their leased or purchased Nissan vehicles spontaneously shattered as they drove on the highway. Id. ¶¶ 54, 65.

         Ms. Lohr claims she drove her leased 2015 Nissan Rogue SV for less than six months before her panoramic sunroof unexpectedly shattered. See id. ¶¶ 48, 54. Ms. Lohr was driving on the highway when her panoramic sunroof shattered and glass from the sunroof fell on her head and body. Id. at ¶ 54. There was no indication that anything fell on her vehicle's panoramic sunroof. Id. at ¶ 55. Ms. Lohr drove about twenty miles to a dealership where her vehicle could be repaired. Id. at ¶ 57. Because Ms. Lohr's vehicle was still under warranty, the dealership replaced her panoramic sunroof and she was provided with a free loaner vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 56-57. However, although her panoramic sunroof was replaced, Ms. Lohr alleges her panoramic sunroof was replaced with an identically defective panoramic sunroof. Id. ¶ 58. Ms. Lohr thus contends that Defendants have failed to correct the problem. Id. Ms. Lohr indicates she paid a premium for her panoramic sunroof, and that she would not have leased her 2015 Nissan Rogue SV, or she would have paid less to lease the vehicle, had she been aware of the panoramic sunroof's defect. Id. ¶¶ 52, 60.

         Similar to Ms. Lohr's vehicle, the panoramic sunroof of Mr. Sindogi's 2012 Nissan Murano also shattered as Mr. Sindogi drove on the highway in April or May 2016. Dkt. #12 ¶ 65. Mr. Sindogis' family was in the vehicle at the time, and glass from the panoramic sunroof “rained down” on Mr. Sindogi, his wife, and his 8-year old daughter. Id. There was no indication that anything fell on Mr. Sindogi's vehicle, and Mr. Sindogi drove the damaged vehicle home. Id. ¶¶ 65-66. Because Mr. Sindogi's warranty had expired, repair of his panoramic sunroof was not covered by Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 67-74. However, Defendants' customer care center opened a case to determine why Mr. Sindogi's sunroof shattered. Id. ¶ 67. Mr. Sindogi also expended several hours to drive to the Nissan dealership where he purchased his vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 67-68. After diagnostic testing, the Nissan dealer “could not determine what caused the panoramic sunroof to shatter but opined that it was probably caused by something striking the sunroof, even though no object was seen, heard, or found at the time of the incident.” Id. ¶ 69. Mr. Sindogi ultimately submitted a claim through his car insurance company and, after he paid a deductible, his panoramic sunroof was repaired. Id. ¶¶ 71-73. Mr. Sindogi claims that his panoramic sunroof was replaced with an identically defective panoramic sunroof. Id. ¶ 73. Following this repair, Mr. Sindogi, concerned about the vehicle's safety, eventually traded in his 2012 Nissan Murano for another vehicle. Id. ¶ 75.

         Together, Ms. Lohr and Mr. Sindogi allege violations of Washington State's Consumer Protection Act, breach of express warranties, breach of the warranty of merchantability, and violations of the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”) against Defendants. Dkt. #12 ¶¶ 90-147. Plaintiffs request relief in the form of actual damages, exemplary damages, restitution, disgorgement, rescission, and injunctive relief. Id. at 38-39. Plaintiffs seek to represent “[a]ll Washington State residents who purchased or leased in the State of Washington a model year 2008-2016 Rogue, Maxima, Sentra, Pathfinder or Altima, 2009-2016 Murano, or 2011-2016 Juke with a factory installed panoramic sunroof.” Id. ¶ 77.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive the contention that a complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This requirement is met when the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint need not include detailed allegations, but it must have “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Absent facial plausibility, Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed. Id. at 570.

         In making a 12(b)(6) assessment, the court accepts all facts alleged in the complaint as true, and makes all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Baker v. Riverside County Office of Educ., 584 F.3d 821, 824 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). However, the court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Where a complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, “leave to amend should be granted unless the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Nissan seeks to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint on the following grounds: (1) Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims; (2) Plaintiffs do not adequately plead their Washington State Consumer Protection Act claims; (3) Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief is preempted; and (4) Plaintiffs do not plead viable warranty claims. See Dkt. #22. Each of Nissan's arguments is addressed in turn.

         A. Plaintiffs' Standing.

         A challenge based on lack of standing is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); Walsh v. Microsoft Corp., 63 F.Supp.3d 1312, 1317-18 (W.D. Wash. 2014). To demonstrate standing, Plaintiffs must establish three elements. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992) (“The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.”). First, Plaintiffs must demonstrate they suffered an “injury in fact, ” which is “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Id. at 560 (internal citations and quotes omitted). Next, “the injury has to be ‘fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action, '” and it must be likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Id. at 560-61. “At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we ‘presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'” Id. at 561 (quoting National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990)).

         Nissan poses three standing challenges to Plaintiffs' claims. See Dkt. #22 at 10-14. First, Nissan argues that Ms. Lohr does not have standing to bring her claims because she has not suffered an actual injury. Id. at 10-11. To support this argument, Nissan contends Ms. Lohr has not suffered an economic injury because her car dealership repaired her shattered panoramic sunroof. Id. Nissan also argues that Ms. Lohr fails to present enough facts to support any claim that her replacement sunroof suffers from the same defect as the old one. Id. Nissan then argues that because Ms. Lohr pleads she will not lease another Nissan Rogue, and because Mr. Sindogi has sold his Nissan Murano and bought a Toyota Sienna, both Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue injunctive relief. Id. at 11-13. Finally, Nissan argues Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue claims related to Nissan vehicles they did not lease or purchase because Plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to make it plausible that the panoramic sunroofs of vehicles not owned or leased by Plaintiffs are substantially similar in design and manufacture to Plaintiffs' vehicles' sunroofs. Id. at 13-14.

         In response, Plaintiffs contend they have standing to pursue their claims because they have pled cognizable injuries. Dkt. #24 at 12. With respect to Mr. Sindogi, Plaintiffs point out that Nissan does not challenge whether Mr. Sindogi has pled a cognizable injury. Id. Consequently, because standing is satisfied if at least one named Plaintiff meets the requirements for standing, Plaintiffs argue they have standing. Id. (citing Bates v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 511 F.3d 974, 985 (9th Cir. 2007)). Plaintiff also argues that Ms. Lohr has pled a cognizable injury because she has alleged that she overpaid for a defective panoramic sunroof and she expended a significant amount of time and money fixing her shattered sunroof. Id. at 12-14. With respect to Nissan's injunctive relief argument, Plaintiffs argue that Ms. Lohr is threatened by a repetition of Nissan's refusal to adequately disclose and repair the defective panoramic sunroofs because Mr. Lohr's shattered sunroof was replaced with an equally defective sunroof which may also shatter. Id. at 14-15. Finally, Plaintiffs argue that whether they can pursue claims related to models of Nissan vehicles they did not lease or purchase is ...


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