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Curtis A. Jennings, Iii v. An U-Haul International

May 17, 2013

CURTIS A. JENNINGS, III,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AN U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; and [Doc. No. 54] DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT. [Doc. No. 65]

Pending before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The Court finds these matters suitable for decision on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1 For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint.

I.BACKGROUND

A. Procedural Background

On August 19, 2011, Plaintiff Curtis Jennings, III, brought suit against Defendants U-Haul International, Inc. ("U-Haul") and AMERCO*fn1 (collectively "Defendants"). The Complaint alleges several claims arising from a disputed vehicle rental agreement between U-Haul and William Basset, an acquaintance of Plaintiff. [Compl., Doc. No. 1.] On October 12, 2011, Defendants filed an Answer, denying all allegations and asserting thirteen affirmative defenses. [Doc. No. 5.] On February 25, 2013, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, to dismiss the complaint. [Doc. No. 54.] Plaintiff filed an opposition and Defendants replied.

As part of his opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff requests leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff later separately filed a formal motion for leave, making similar arguments as in his opposition. [Doc. No. 65.]

B. Factual Background

On May 19, 2011, Plaintiff went to a U-Haul facility in San Diego, California, to rent a vehicle. [Compl. ¶ 13.] Because the particular location was closing and Plaintiff did not have a driver's license in his possession, U-Haul did not rent a vehicle to him. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that a U-Haul employee informed him that a friend of Plaintiff, who did have a valid driver's license with picture identification, could be placed on the rental application as an "authorized driver." [Id. ¶ 14.]

On May 20, 2011, Plaintiff returned to the same U-Haul location with an acquaintance, William Basset, who possessed a "valid [driver's] license for purposes of the contract." [Id. ¶ 17.] Plaintiff alleges that through the negligence of a U-Haul employee, Basset executed the Equipment Rental Contract ("Contract") as a "contracting party" instead of as an "authorized driver." [Id. ¶ 18; Evans Decl., ¶ 2, Exh. 1.] Plaintiff did not sign the Contract. [Evans Decl., ¶ 2, Exh. 1.] Plaintiff further alleges that the U-Haul employee who executed the Contract informed him that he "was unable to correct the error in the contract due to the automatic shut-down of the corporate computer system." [Compl. ¶ 19.]

After renting the truck, Plaintiff alleges that he had an argument with Basset. [Id. ¶ 20.] Thereafter, Basset "stole the vehicle by hot[-]wiring the ignition and fleeing with . . . Plaintiff's property." [Id.] San Diego Police Officers then stopped Basset, discovered he had a suspended license, and impounded the U-Haul truck. [Id. ¶¶ 21-22.] Upon U-Haul's retrieval of the rental truck from the impound lot, U-Haul employees discovered Plaintiff's personal property inside the truck. [Mot. at 2.] U-Haul arranged for the storage of the personal property. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges the personal property in U-Haul's possession rightfully belongs to him, and he has been unable to recover it "until the bill for the rental and the impound fees and penalties are paid." [Compl. ¶ 22.]

C. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff brings claims for (1) breach of contract, breach of quasi-contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (2) unjust enrichment, and (3) negligence.

With respect to the breach of contract claims, Plaintiff alleges that he "executed the contract and/or 'quasi-contract' with Defendants . . . as Plaintiff was . . . supposed to be the primary party and the ipso facto party-in-interest tendering the consideration . . . for the rented vehicle." [Compl. ¶ 25.] Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants "breached . . . by failing to correctly execute the agreement so as to show Plaintiff as the contracting party." [Id. ¶ 26.] As a result of this breach, Plaintiff avers that "Defendants knew or should have known that the ambiguity in the contract may result in a controversy." [Id. ¶ 30.]

With respect to the unjust enrichment claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants "would be unjustly enriched if allowed to collect rental fees" because Plaintiff did not have access to the rental vehicle as a result of the "erroneous contract." [Id. ¶ 35.]

Lastly, with respect to the negligence claim, Plaintiff alleges the elements of a general negligence claim: Defendants owed a duty of care to Plaintiff, Defendants breached that duty, and the breach proximately caused Plaintiff damages. [Id. ¶ 40.]

D. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts*fn2

On May 19, 2011, Plaintiff went to a U-Haul facility located in San Diego to rent a truck. A U-Haul employee informed Plaintiff that he could not rent a U-Haul truck without a driver's license and photo identification. On May 20, 2011, Plaintiff returned to the U-Haul rental facility with an acquaintance, William Basset, who (according to Plaintiff) had a valid driver's license for the purposes of the contract. Basset executed the Contract on May 20, 2011. Plaintiff did not sign the Contract. The Contract is fully integrated and states that it can only be modified in writing. In pertinent part, the Contract states:

These terms and conditions, the terms and conditions of the individual rental contract signed by the Customer, together constitute the entire Agreement ("This Agreement") for the rental of that equipment identified on the individual rental contract ("EQUIPMENT"; and where necessary EQUIPMENT may be further specified as a "Truck", "Trailer", "Pick Up Truck" or "Van"), including all of its parts. I, the Customer, agree to all terms and conditions of this Agreement. . . . You agree that no employee of Company or any affiliated company has authority to modify the written ...


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