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Buelow v. Plaza Motors of Brooklyn, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 29, 2017



         A buyer sues a car dealership for allegedly misrepresenting the condition of the car it sold him. Defendant Plaza Motors of Brooklyn, Inc. (“Plaza”) now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Mot., ECF No. 9. Plaintiff Brandon Buelow (“Brandon”) opposes. Opp'n, ECF No. 11. As provided by Local Rule 230(g), the court submitted the matter without a hearing. Min. Order, ECF No. 15. For the reasons set forth below, the court now GRANTS Plaza's motion to dismiss.


         Brandon is a captain in the United States Air Force who was stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey until sometime in late 2015. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6, ECF No. 1. Brandon received orders that he was being transferred to Travis Air Force Base in California, so he and his wife Angela Buelow (“Angela”) (collectively “the Buelows”) decided to buy a new car “to help facilitate their cross-country relocation.” Id. ¶¶ 6-7.

         Plaza is a car dealer in New York and its principal place of business is in Brooklyn. Id. ¶ 5. The Buelows saw an advertisement Plaza had placed on the website, advertising the sale of a new 2016 Honda Pilot. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. Angela telephoned Plaza to find out whether the car was still available and to get more details about its condition. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. On that call, Angela informed Plaza's salesperson Richard Garcia (“Garcia”) that the Buelows were relocating to California and would be taking the car with them. Id. ¶ 11. Also on that call, Garcia told Angela the car was new but that it had been driven for roughly three hundred miles because a prior prospective purchaser had arranged for it to be transferred from Virginia to New York, before the prospective purchaser ultimately selected a vehicle with a different trim package. Id. ¶ 12. Garcia told Angela that Plaza would sell the Buelows the car for $41, 000, at a discount from the advertised price of $43, 200, to match the price a dealership in New Jersey was offering for a new Honda Pilot. Id. Satisfied with the conversation, Angela arranged a credit card payment to Plaza to hold the car until the next day when she and Brandon could drive from their home in New Jersey to Plaza's premises in New York to complete the purchase. Id. ¶ 13.

         The next day, the Buelows visited Plaza's Brooklyn location and met with Garcia to discuss the car. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Garcia again told the Buelows that Plaza would sell them the car for $41, 000. Id. ¶ 16. Brandon noticed the car did not have a Monroney sticker affixed. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. A Monroney sticker is displayed in the window of all new cars and contains information about the manufacturer's suggested retail price, the car's specifications, fuel economy ratings, and the like. Id. ¶ 17; see also 15 U.S.C. § 1232 (listing the information a Monroney sticker must provide). When Brandon asked Garcia about the missing sticker, Garcia told Brandon the “prior dealership had removed the window sticker before the [car] was driven up from Virginia, ” but that Garcia “would send [Brandon] a copy of the . . . sticker.” Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.

         The parties then began filling out paperwork to complete the transaction. Plaza employees prepared several documents that Brandon signed, including the following:

1. A document entitled “New York State Department of Motor Vehicles - Retail Certificate of Sale, ” which identified Brandon as the purchaser of the car, identified “American Honda Motor, Torrance, CA” as the prior owner, and identified the type of sale as “Retail” and “New.” Id. ¶ 21. American Honda Motor (“American Honda”) is a California-based subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and distributes all Honda-branded cars in the United States. Schlanger Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6, ECF No. 11-1.
2. A document entitled “Application of Certificate of Ownership, ” a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission form, indicating that Brandon owned the car and American Honda Finance was the lienholder. Compl. ¶ 22. American Honda Finance (“Honda Finance”) is a California-based Honda entity that offers financial services and retail loans on Honda-branded products. Schlanger Decl. ¶¶ 12-16.
3. A document entitled “New Vehicle Invoice, ” which stated that the car was “NEW, ” that Plaza sold it to Brandon, and that Honda Finance was the lienholder. Compl. ¶ 23.
4. A document entitled “Motor Vehicle (Automobile) - Simple Interest - Retail Installment Contract - Consumer Credit Document New York, ” which indicated the car was “NEW.” Id. ¶ 27.

         Brandon also signed a limited power of attorney authorizing specified Plaza employees to “sign and execute any documents necessary to process” the transfer of title, registration and procurement of license plates for the car. Id. ¶ 28. Finally, Garcia helped the Buelows connect their Bluetooth devices to the car. Id. ¶ 30. During that process, the Buelows noticed other Bluetooth devices had previously been paired with the car and they asked Garcia for an explanation. Id. ¶ 31. Garcia replied: “the guy who drove the car up from Virginia wanted to listen to his own music.” Id.

         Unbeknownst to the Buelows, the car Plaza sold them was not actually new. It had been owned previously by a man named Alonzo Nimmons (“Nimmons”). Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Nimmons bought the car from Plaza about a month before the Buelows did. Id. ¶ 37. A week after Nimmons purchased the car, he dropped it off with Plaza so Plaza could repair a “minor issue.” Id. ¶ 38. When Nimmons returned to pick up the car, the front passenger side of the car had been “crushed in.” Id. ¶ 39. Nimmons demanded and eventually received a replacement car from Plaza. Id. ¶ 40. Plaza never told the Buelows the car had been previously owned or that it had been damaged. Id. ¶ 41. In fact, Plaza “made false assertions to the contrary in an attempt to conceal the true facts.” Id. The Buelows only learned about the car's history after an irregularity with the car's satellite radio subscription motivated them to investigate. Id. ¶¶ 32-35. The Buelows are now aware that the car “is not, in fact, a pristine, low-mileage, single-owner vehicle, but rather a used car with multiple owners, undisclosed accidents, and uncertain provenance.” Id. ¶ 43.


         On October 31, 2016, Brandon filed a complaint against Plaza in this court. He asserts the following claims: (1) violation of California's Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Compl. ¶¶ 48-60; (2) violation of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for Breach of Express Written Warranty, id. ¶¶ 61-69; (3) violation of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for Breach of “Implied Written Warranty, ” id. ΒΆΒΆ 70-88; (4) ...

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