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Laura Marchante, et al., On Behalf of v. Sony Corporation of America

December 5, 2011

LAURA MARCHANTE, ET AL., ON BEHALF OF
THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SONY CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC., SONY ELECTRONICS, INC., AND SONY CORP., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 35)

Presently before the Court is Defendants Sony Corporation of America, Sony Electronics, Inc., and Sony Corporations's (collectively, "Defendants" or "Sony") motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' consolidated second amended complaint ("CSAC"). (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 35) Also before the Court are Plaintiffs' opposition, (Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 37), and Defendants' reply in support, (Reply in Supp., ECF No. 38). The hearing set for the motion on December 1, 2011, was vacated, and the matter taken under submission on the papers. Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss.

This Order incorporates by reference the background facts as set forth in this Court's July 8, 2011 Order. (Order 1--2, ECF No. 33) In short, Plaintiffs claim that Sony violated several consumer protection statutes and breached express and implied warranties by selling them defective televisions. Plaintiffs' CSAC asserts seven claims: (1) Violation of California Business and Professional Code § 17200, et seq. ("Unfair Competition Law" or "UCL"); (2) Violation of California Consumers Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA"), Cal. Civ. Code § 1750, et seq.; (3) Strict Liability*fn1 ; (4) Breach of Express Warranty; (5) Breach of Implied Warranty; (6) Violation of the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1792, et seq.; and (7) Violation of Magnuson-Moss Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to assert by motion the defense that the complaint "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," generally known as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim" showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Although Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' . . . it [does] demand[] more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S.- , 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' for 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pleaded "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to say that the claim must be probable, but there must be "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Facts "'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, the Court need not accept as true "legal conclusions" contained in the complaint. Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's "judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged- but it has not 'show[n]'- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id.

When a motion to dismiss is granted, "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.'" DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986)). In other words, the Court may deny leave to amend if amendment would be futile. See id.; Schreiber Distrib., 806 F.2d at 1401.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs' CSAC again raises claims of alleged violations California's consumer protection statutes and breach of implied and express warranties, (CSAC, ECF No. 34), claims which this Court previously dismissed for failure to state a claim in its July 8, 2011 Order, (Order, ECF No. 33).

1. Violation of California's Consumer Protection Statutes

The CSAC drops the False Advertising Law claim from the prior complaint, but reasserts the Unfair Competition Law and CLRA claims.

A. California Business and Professional Code § 17200

California's UCL prohibits acts of unfair competition, which includes "any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice." Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200; see also In re Pomona Valley Medical Grp. Inc., 476 F.3d 665, 674 (9th Cir. 2007). "Because [the UCL] is written in the disjunctive, it establishes three varieties of unfair competition-acts or practices which are unlawful, or unfair, or fraudulent." Podolsky v. First Healthcare Corp., 58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 89, 98 (Cal. Ct. App. 1996). Here, Plaintiffs again allege that Sony "engaged in 'unfair' business acts or practices" by selling, promoting, and recalling the television models at issue. (CSAC ¶¶ 45--47, ECF No. 34)

"An act or practice is unfair if the consumer injury is substantial, is not outweighed by any countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition, and is not an injury the consumers themselves could reasonably have avoided." Daugherty v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc., 51 Cal. Rptr. 3d 118, 129 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006). The Court previously dismissed Plaintiffs' ...


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