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Saaremets v. Whirlpool Corp.

March 18, 2010

ALAR SAAREMETS, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on the motion of defendant Whirlpool Corporation ("Whirlpool" or "defendant") to dismiss plaintiff Alar Saaremets' ("plaintiff") class action complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 Plaintiff opposes the motion. The court heard oral argument on the motion on March 12, 2009. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On July 17, 2009, plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit in the California Superior Court, Nevada County. (Docket # 1.) Whirlpool removed the complaint to this court on August 21, 2009, on the basis of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d), 1441(a), and 1453. (Id.) Thereafter, on September 18, 2009 Whirlpool concurrently filed a motion to change venue and a motion to dismiss. (Docket #s 17, 18.) The court continued the hearing on the motion to dismiss in order to hear the motion to change venue in the first instance. (Docket # 19.) Plaintiff opposed both motions. (Docket #s 25, 30.) However, Whirlpool subsequently withdrew its motion to change venue on January 8, 2010. (Docket # 29.) The matter is now before the court on Whirlpool's motion to dismiss.

B. Factual Background

Whirlpool is a corporation that manufacturers and sells a variety of home appliances,*fn2 including gas and electric ovens. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Most Whirlpool ovens include a self-cleaning system, which the user can activate by pressing a button marked "Self-Clean" or "Auto Clean" on the oven's electronic touch pad. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 4.) Once engaged, the oven locks and heats itself to a high temperature, sometimes exceeding 1,000 degrees. (Id. ¶ 6.)

Plaintiff alleges that the excessive heat from the self-cleaning system causes damage to the electronic components in the oven's control panel. (Id. ¶ 8.) Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the defects in Whirlpool's ovens result in damage to the control panel "after as few as two and as many as five or six uses of the self-cleaning cycle." (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff suggests that the damage correlates with the "number of times the self-cleaning cycle is used rather than the age of the oven." (Id.)

Around August 2002, plaintiff purchased a KitchenAid oven for his home. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff alleges that when he purchased the oven, he consulted Whirlpool's product literature regarding the self-cleaning system and relied on this information when he decided to purchase from Whirlpool. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff used the self-cleaning system only two times after purchasing the oven in August 2002, the most recent of which occurred in May 2009. (Id. ¶ 42.) After his second use, plaintiff alleges that the oven locked, the control panel went dark, and the oven was no longer useable. (Id.) When plaintiff contacted Whirlpool to arrange for repairs, Whirlpool informed plaintiff that the repairs were no longer covered by his warranty. (Id.) Plaintiff then contacted a licensed repair professional who informed him that the self-cleaning system destroyed the oven's control panel, and that the cost of repair would be approximately $800. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.)

Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of himself and all California consumers who purchased or previously owned a Whirlpool oven with an electronic control panel and a self-cleaning system, and who have incurred repair costs as a result of the self-cleaner's malfunction.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 48.) Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Whirlpool violated (1) California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL" or "UCL claim"), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.; (2) California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA" or "CLRA claim"), Cal. Civ. Code § 1770 et seq.; and (3) California Business and Profession Code § 17500 et seq., prohibiting false advertising ("FAL" or "FAL claim"). The gravamen of plaintiff's claims is that Whirlpool engaged in false advertising by failing to disclose to customers that the self-cleaning system in its ovens would result in damage to the control panel after only several uses. (Id. ¶¶ 59-65.) In addition, plaintiff alleges that Whirlpool engaged in fraudulent, unlawful, and deceptive business practices by engaging in an advertising campaign that failed to acknowledge the specific deficiencies of the self-cleaning system. (Id. ¶¶ 70-72, 79-80.) Whirlpool moves to dismiss plaintiff's claims, arguing, inter alia, that plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. (Def.'s MTD, filed September 18, 2009, 15:3-16:2.)

STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege "'specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Nevertheless, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 1950 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the... laws in ways that have not been alleged."

Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570). Only where a plaintiff has failed to "nudge [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. at 1952. While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement, it demands more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 1949. This ...


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