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Long v. Graco Children's Products Inc.

United States District Court, Northern District of California

December 17, 2014

SETH LONG, Plaintiff,
v.
GRACO CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND DEFERRING MOTION TO STRIKE CLASS ALLEGATIONS

JAMES DONATO, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This putative class action for deceptive practices and other consumer claims arises out of the sale and distribution of car seats for infants and children with defective harness buckles. Although initiated in 2013, the case is still in the pleading stage after partial dismissal of the first amended complaint with leave to amend. Dkt. No. 60. Plaintiff Seth Long is now on a third amended complaint ("TAC"), which defendants Graco Children's Products Inc. and Newell Rubbermaid Inc. (collectively "Graco") move to dismiss on jurisdiction grounds under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Graco does not challenge the substance of Long's consumer claims. Instead, Graco argues that a pre-suit offer of a full refund to plaintiff and a post-suit national recall of seats with the defective buckles defeat subject matter jurisdiction in this action. The Court has carefully considered the parties' written and oral arguments, and denies the motion on the facts currently before it.

Graco also moves to strike the class allegations in the TAC. Graco contends the proposed class is overbroad and not reasonably ascertainable. The Court denies the motion without prejudice in favor of deciding these issues in the class certification context rather than at this stage of the case.

BACKGROUND

The core factual allegations in this case are detailed in the dismissal order for the first amended complaint and will not be repeated here. Dkt. No. 60. In a nutshell, plaintiff contends the harness buckles were unduly difficult and at times impossible to unlatch, but that Graco concealed the problem and affirmatively advertised the car seats as having a harness that "helps you get baby in and out." Dkt. No. 95 at ¶ 4.

The new allegations in the TAC focus mainly on a national recall of Graco's car seats with the defective buckles. Long alleges that, on January 14, 2014, after several months of investigation into the buckles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") issued a Recall Request Letter to Graco asking that it recall all model year 2009-2013 car seats equipped with the defective buckles at issue here — the "QT" and "QT3" buckles. Dkt. No. 95 at ¶ 60. NHTSA requested that Graco provide a "free remedy" for these seats. Id.

In response, Graco delivered a Defect Information Report and Amended Defect Information Report to NHTSA in February 2014. Id. at ¶ 61. Graco advised NHTSA that it agreed to recall approximately 3.8 million seats for model years 2009 through 2013. Id. But it declined to recall another 1.8 million rear-facing seats equipped with bad buckles that were included in the NHTSA request. Id. NHTSA sent a letter to Graco objecting to the exclusion of the 1.8 million seats and acknowledging that "[b]y filing a Defect Information Report. . . Graco has confirmed that it has determined that a defect exists in its equipment and that the defect constitutes an 'unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.'" Id. at ¶¶ 63-64.

In March 2014, Graco issued a second report to NHTSA recalling an additional 403, 222 seats, which included models going back to 2006. Id. at ¶ 65. Graco stated in the report that it "ha[d] received numerous complaints" about the performance of the buckles. In July 2014, Graco reversed course on the 1.8 million rear-facing seats and recalled them as well. Id. at ¶ 66.

The TAC alleges claims under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, and for breach of implied warranty under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The putative class consists of "California residents who purchased a Graco car seat in California, from January 1, 2009, to the present, that was equipped" with the QT or QT3 buckles. Id. at ¶ 71.

DISCUSSION

I. FRCP 12(B)(1)

Graco seeks dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1), which allows challenges for "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). It has raised a factual challenge to jurisdiction. The courts in our circuit distinguish between facial and factual jurisdictional attacks under Rule 12(b)(1). "Where the motion presents a facial jurisdictional attack — that is, where the motion is based solely on the allegations in the complaint — the court must accept these allegations as true. Where, however, the challenge is factual — where it is based on extrinsic evidence, apart from the pleadings — the court may resolve factual disputes in order to determine whether it has jurisdiction." Nat'I Licensing Ass'n, LLC v. Inland Joseph Fruit Co., 361 F.Supp.2d 1244, 1247 (E.D. Wash. 2004) (citing Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir.1987)); see also Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004) (jurisdictional challenge was factual attack when it '"relied on extrinsic evidence and did not assert lack of subject matter jurisdiction solely on the basis of the pleadings.'" (citation omitted)). A factual challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) "disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction." Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039.

To resolve a factual attack on jurisdiction, the Court has broader power than Rule 12 usually permits to consider evidence outside the complaint. The Court may "review evidence beyond the complaint" and if it is disputed may weigh the evidence and determine the facts to assess jurisdiction. Id. When the motion is resolved without an evidentiary hearing, the Ninth Circuit has held that the complaint's ...


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