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Durkee v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 2, 2014

MICHAEL DURKEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Defendant's motion for an order dismissing the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim came on for hearing before this court on August 20, 2014. Plaintiffs appeared by their counsel Richard Wirtz, and defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") appeared by its counsel Frank Kelly and Amir Nassihi. Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments, and the relevant legal authority, the court hereby GRANTS the motion as follows.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Michael Durkee and Leslie Durkee allege that they experienced "consistent and substantial problems" with a 2005 Ford F-250 truck that Michael purchased for more than $60, 000 from Ford of Marin. In 2012, they contacted Ford and demanded that it repair or replace the truck under the "Lemon Law" provisions of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.

After reviewing the matter, Ford sent a letter offering either a replacement or a refund. The letter also stated that plaintiffs would be responsible for "missing equipment, abnormal wear or damages evident on [the] vehicle (i.e., worn tires, missing radio, cracked windshield)" and that "[a]ny missing equipment, abnormal wear, or damage must be corrected prior to completing of the reacquired vehicle transaction."

Plaintiffs selected the "Replacement Transaction" option, and indicated that the current mileage of the truck was 111795. However, after inspecting the vehicle and determining it had suffered "major body damage, " Ford informed plaintiffs that they would be responsible for paying more than $10, 000 for repairs before Ford would complete the transaction.

On February 10, 2014, plaintiffs filed the present complaint as a proposed class action, asserting causes of action under the Song-Beverly Act, California Civil Code § 1790, et seq.; the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), California Business & Professions Code § 17200; and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), California Civil Code § 1770, et seq. Ford now seeks an order dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests for the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, Inc. , 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). Review is limited to the contents of the complaint. Allarcom Pay Television, Ltd. v. Gen. Instrument Corp. , 69 F.3d 381, 385 (9th Cir. 1995). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint generally must satisfy only the minimal notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires that a complaint include a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if the plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory, or has not alleged sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). The court is to "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Outdoor Media Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont , 506 F.3d 895, 899-900 (9th Cir. 2007). However, legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); see also In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig. , 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (district court is not required to accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences"). The allegations in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and quotations omitted).

A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not proffer enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See id. at 558-59. 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." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "[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. at 679. In the event dismissal is warranted, it is generally without prejudice, unless it is clear the complaint cannot be saved by any amendment. See Sparling v. Daou , 411 F.3d 1006, 1013 (9th Cir. 2005).

Although the court generally may not consider material outside the pleadings when resolving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court may consider matters that are properly the subject of judicial notice. Lee v. City of Los Angeles , 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001); Mack v. South Bay Beer Distributors, Inc. , 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986). Additionally, the court may consider exhibits attached to the complaint, see Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc. , 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1989), as well as documents referenced extensively in the complaint and documents that form the basis of a the plaintiff's claims. See No. 84 Employer-Teamster Joint Counsel Pension Trust Fund v. America West Holding Corp. , 320 F.3d 920, 925 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003).

Finally, in actions alleging fraud, "the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake shall be stated with particularity." Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Under Rule 9(b), falsity must be pled with specificity, including an account of the "time, place, and specific content of the false representations as well as the identities of the parties to the misrepresentations." Swartz v. KPMG LLP , 476 F.3d 756, 764 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). "[A]llegations of fraud must be specific enough to give defendants notice of the particular misconduct which is alleged to constitute the fraud charged so that they can defend against the charge and not just deny that they have done anything wrong." Bly-Magee v. California , 236 F.3d 1014, 1019 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation and quotations omitted). In addition, the plaintiff must do more than simply allege the neutral facts necessary to identify the transaction; he must also explain why the disputed statement was untrue or misleading at the time it was made. Yourish v. California Amplifier , 191 F.3d 983, 992-93 (9th Cir. 1999).

B. Defendant's Motion

Ford asserts that the claims for equitable relief (UCL and CLRA claims) must be dismissed because plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law; that the CLRA claim must be dismissed for the further reason that a transaction involving repurchase/replacement of a vehicle pursuant to a claim under the Song-Beverly Act does not fall under the CLRA; that the claims are barred by the litigation privilege; that the complaint fails to state a claim because it sounds in fraud but the claims are not pled ...


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