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Beaty v. Ford Motor Co.

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

January 16, 2018

JESSICA BEATY and JESSICA BEATY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          RONALD B. LEIGHTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Ford's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Jessica[1] Beatty claims her Ford Escape's panoramic glass moon roof spontaneously shattered, due to a manufacturing defect common to a wide range of Ford vehicles. She claims that sunroof material is too thin, leading to failure. She sued, seeking to represent a class of purchasers of such vehicles. She asserts claims for breach of express and implied warranties, fraudulent concealment, and breach of Washington's Consumer Protection Act.

         Ford seeks dismissal, arguing that each claim fails as a matter of law. It argues Beatty does not have standing to assert claims related to Ford models she did not purchase and therefore that the Court does not have jurisdiction. It argues that its express warranty has expired by its terms, and that the limitations period for any implied warranty claim has expired. It argues that Beaty and the plaintiff class she seeks to represent lack contractual privity with Ford because she (and they) purchased vehicles from Ford dealers, not from Ford. Ford argues Beaty's state law claims are time-barred, that she has not pled and cannot plead that Ford had knowledge of the defect, and that the alleged omission was not likely to mislead. Ford seeks dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (b)(6).

         A. Standard.

         Dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff's complaint must allege facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking relief “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although the court must accept as true the Complaint's well-pled facts, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat an otherwise proper 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Vazquez v. Los Angeles Cty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and footnotes omitted). This requires a plaintiff to plead “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me-accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing id.).

         Although Iqbal establishes the standard for deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Rule 12(c) is “functionally identical” to Rule 12(b)(6) and that “the same standard of review” applies to motions brought under either rule. Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 647 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2011), citing Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir.1989); see also Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 544 (5th Cir. 2010) (applying Iqbal to a Rule 12(c) motion).

         On a 12(b)(6) motion, “a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Cook, Perkiss & Liehe v. N. Cal. Collection Serv., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). However, where the facts are not in dispute, and the sole issue is whether there is liability as a matter of substantive law, the court may deny leave to amend. Albrecht v. Lund, 845 F.2d 193, 195-96 (9th Cir. 1988).

         B. Standing.

         Ford argues that because Beaty purchased only a 2013 Escape Titanium model, she does not have standing to represent a class composed of purchasers of other Ford vehicles. It argues that Beaty seeks to represent purchasers of sixteen models from Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, spanning eight model years, with sunroofs manufactured by two different suppliers. It claims that this disparity means that Beaty cannot meet her burden of pleading (and demonstrating) that the products at issue are “substantially similar.” See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 23; see also Lohr v. Nissan North America, 2017 WL 1037555 (W.D. Wash.). It argues that this dis-similarity means that Beaty does not have standing to assert class claims on behalf of other, non-similarly situated, plaintiff class members.

         Beaty argues, persuasively, that “substantial similarly” is part of Rule 23's requirement of typicality, adequacy, and commonality; it is not a standing (or jurisdictional) inquiry. See

         [Matter Not Available]

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Livid Holdings Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005); see also Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). Generally, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of material fact and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Wyler Summit P'ship v. Turner Broad. Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998).

         Lohr does not purport to place a numerical limit on the number of vehicles a plaintiff can put at issue. There were seven models there and there are 16 here, but that is not a “legal and factual” distinction that warrants a different result than the denial of Nissan's Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing in that case. See Lohr at *4. Beatty can and has sufficiently pled that the sunroof defects are similar across the ...


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