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Davison v. Kia Motors America, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division

June 29, 2015

COLLEEN DAVISON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,


CORMAC J. CARNEY, District Judge.


Plaintiff Colleen Davison ("Plaintiff"), on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, brings this consumer protection class action against Defendant Kia Motors America, Inc. ("Kia"). According to the First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Kia, a California company, sells automobiles through Kia-authorized dealers in the United States. (Dkt. No. 15 [FAC] ¶ 7.) Plaintiff is a Washington resident who bought a 2003 Kia Optima ("Optima") from a Kia dealership in 2003. ( Id. ¶¶ 3, 7.) Around June 2013, Plaintiff began experiencing difficulty with the door-locking system for the front doors of her Optima. ( Id. ¶ 21.) The FAC alleges that when Plaintiff would try to use her remote key device to open the doors, the doors would lock, requiring manual unlocking. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff further alleges that due to the defect, she was unable to unlock certain doors from inside her vehicle and, on several occasions, Plaintiff had to exit using the rear passenger doors. ( Id. ) Over time, Plaintiff alleges that unlocking the doors on her Optima became increasingly more difficult and by September 2013, Plaintiff was unable to unlock her front doors by any method. ( Id. ) Plaintiff contends that the Optima's door locking system poses "an unreasonable safety risk during normal driving operation, preventing vehicle egress if the car is involved in an accident or other event that requires quick exit from the motor vehicle." ( Id. ¶ 1.)

Plaintiff asserts that Kia knew about and should have disclosed the potential door-locking defects when Plaintiff purchased her Optima in 2003. Plaintiff further asserts that Kia should have recalled and repaired the locks, offered a replacement, or reimbursed its customers who paid for repairs. ( Id . ¶ 27.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself and all owners of Kia Optima automobiles, model years 2001-2006, within the United States. ( Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff asserts two causes of action, alleging that Kia violated the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA"), Cal. Civ. Code § 1750 et seq., and California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq. ( See FAC.) Before the Court is Kia's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to strike portions of the FAC.[1] (Dkt. No. 19 ["Def.'s Mot."].) For the following reasons, Kia's motion to dismiss is GRANTED. [2]


A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. In considering whether to dismiss a case for failure to state a claim, the issue before the court is not whether the claimant will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims asserted. Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 249 (9th Cir. 1997). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the district court must accept all material allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Moyo v. Gomez, 32 F.3d 1382, 1384 (9th Cir. 1994). Rule 12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim is not proper where a plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the district court should grant the plaintiff leave to amend if the claim can possibly be cured by additional factual allegations, Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995), the district court need not grant leave to amend if amendment would be futile, see Kendall v. Visa U.S.A., Inc., 518 F.3d 1042, 1051-52 (9th Cir. 2008) (finding that amendment would be futile where plaintiff was granted leave to amend once and the amended complaint contained the same defects as the prior complaint).


A. Nationwide Class Claims

Kia argues that both of Plaintiff's nationwide class claims under the UCL and CLRA should be dismissed pursuant to Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co., 666 F.3d 581 (9th Cir. 2012). When a federal court is sitting in diversity, it "must look to the forum state's choice of law rules to determine the controlling substantive law." Mazza, 666 F.3d at 594. California law may only be used on a class-wide basis if "the interests of other states are not found to outweigh California's interest in having its law applied." Wash. Mut. Bank v. Superior Court, 24 Cal.4th 906, 921 (2001). To determine whether those interests outweigh California's interest, a court must apply a three-step government interest test in which (1) "the court determines whether the relevant law of each of the potentially affected jurisdictions with regard to the particular issue in question is the same or different"; (2) "if there is a difference, the court examines each jurisdiction's interest in the application of its own law under the circumstances of the particular case to determine whether a true conflict exists"; and (3) "if the court finds that there is a true conflict, it carefully evaluates and compares the nature and strength of the interest of each jurisdiction in the application of its own law to determine which state's interest would be more impaired if its policy were subordinated to the policy of the other state, and then ultimately applies the law of the state whose interest would be more impaired if its law were not applied." Mazza, 666 F.3d at 590 (internal citation omitted).

While Mazza was decided at the class certification stage, "the principle articulated in Mazza applies generally and is instructive even when addressing a motion to dismiss."[3] Frezza v. Google Inc., No. 12-cv-00237-RMW, 2013 WL 1736788, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 22, 2013); see also Frenzel v. AliphCom, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, No. 14-cv-03587-WHO, 2014 WL 7387150, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 29, 2014). Applying California's choice-of-law principles to the facts of this case, the Court finds that Plaintiff's UCL and CLRA claims cannot be brought on behalf of a nationwide class.

1. Conflict of Laws

Kia argues that California's consumer protection statutes, such as the UCL and CLRA, materially differ from the consumer protection laws in other states. A conflict of law problem arises only if the differences in state law are material. Mazza, 666 F.3d at 590-91. Courts in this circuit, in assessing the propriety of nationwide class actions, have held that California's consumer protection statutes are materially different from those in other states. See, e.g., Mazza, 666 F.3d at 591; Frenzel, 2014 WL 7387150, at *4; Frezza, 2013 WL 1736788, at *6; Gianino v. Alacer Corp., 846 F.Supp.2d 1096 (C.D. Cal. 2012); Waller v. Hewlett-Packard Co., No. 11cv0454-LAB, 2012 WL 1987397, at *1 (S.D. Cal. June 4, 2012); In re Hitachi Television Optical Block Cases, No. 08cv1746, 2011 WL 9403, at *6 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 3, 2011) ("[T]here are material conflicts between California's consumer protection laws and the consumer protection laws of the other forty-nine states."). For example, the California laws at issue here have no scienter requirement, while many other states' consumer protection statutes require scienter. Mazza, 666 F.3d at 591; Gianino, 846 F.Supp.2d at 1100-01. Some states, like California, include a reliance requirement in their consumer protection laws, while others do not. Mazza, 666 F.3d at 591; Gianino, 846 F.Supp.2d at 1100-01. Furthermore, the statutes of limitations for consumer protection laws vary among the states from one to ten years. Gianino, 846 F.Supp.2d at 1100-01. In addition, there are material variations in the remedies available under states' consumer protection laws. Id. (identifying differences with regard to the available remedies in various states). In view of such differences, the Ninth Circuit has explained that, under California's choice of law rules, "each class member's consumer protection claim should be governed by the consumer protection laws of the jurisdiction in which the transaction took place." Mazza, 666 F.3d at 594. These differences in consumer protection law among states are not trivial because they involve essential requirements to establish a claim, types of relief and remedies available to a plaintiff, and other dispositive issues. Because the conflicts in the laws of the states are material, the Court moves to the test's second step.

2. Interest of Foreign Jurisdictions

The second step of the Mazza analysis also favors dismissal of Plaintiff's nationwide consumer protection claims. "[E]very state has an interest in having its law applied to its resident claimants." Mazza, 666 F.3d at 591-92 (internal citation omitted). In fact, California law recognizes that "a jurisdiction ordinarily has the predominant interest' in regulating conduct that occurs within its borders." Id. It is the principle of federalism that permits each state to carefully balance its duty to protect its consumers from injuries caused by out-of-state-business with its duty to shield those businesses from what the state may consider excessive regulation or litigation. Id. ("Each state has an interest in setting the appropriate level of liability for companies conducting business within its territory."). This case clearly implicates each state's interest, as the consumer protection and fraud law of every ...

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