United States District Court, E.D. California
MELINDA ESPINELI AND MOHOMMAD MOGHADDAM, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
TOYOTAL MOTOR SALES U.S.A., INC., a California Corporation; TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION, a Japanese Corporation; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive. Defendants.
car manufacturers move to transfer this class action to the
Central District of California to be consolidated with a case
filed there styled Heber v. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.,
Inc., or in the alternative, to stay this action until
Heber is resolved. Defs.' Mot. to Transfer or
Stay (Mot.), ECF No. 15. Plaintiffs oppose the motion.
Pls.' Opp'n (Opp'n), ECF No. 21. Defendants have
replied. Defs.' Reply (Reply), ECF No. 26. The court
heard oral argument on January 12, 2018, and thereafter
submitted the motion. Following hearing, defendants submitted
a notice of supplemental authority, which the court has
reviewed. See ECF No. 35. For the reasons discussed below,
the court finds this case should not be transferred or
stayed, and so the motion is DENIED.
is a class action filed in August 2016 in the Central
District of California in which the plaintiffs allege certain
Toyota vehicles were defectively designed because Toyota used
soy-based wiring insulation that attracts rodents, with the
result that the rodents chew through the wiring. See
generally Heber v. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc., No.
8:16-cv-01525-AG-JCG (C.D. Cal. Aug. 18 2016)
(“Heber”). The action includes
twenty-one named plaintiffs from thirteen states, including
California, who seek to certify state sub-classes consisting
of persons who own or lease or previously owned or leased a
“Class Vehicle.” Fourth Am. Compl.
(Heber 4AC) ¶ 1, Heber, ECF No. 82-1.
The list of “Class Vehicles” includes fifteen
Toyota vehicle models spanning various years from 2008 to
present. Id. ¶ 1 n.1. The California plaintiffs
assert eight claims: breach of express and implied warranty
under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and the California
Song-Beverly Act; violation of the California Consumer Legal
Remedies Act (CLRA) and Unfair Competition Law (UCL);
common-law fraud; and violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty
Act. Id. ¶¶ 208-332. The defendants'
motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint,
Heber ECF No. 82, is now pending before the
filed this action in this court on March 31, 2017. Compl.,
ECF No. 1. Defendants filed this motion to transfer or stay
proceedings on August 14, 2017. Mot. As noted, plaintiffs
filed an opposition on October 20, 2017, and defendants
replied on October 27, 2017. Opp'n; Reply.
is a vehicle manufacturer and parent company of Lexus. This
putative class action arises from one central claim:
Plaintiffs allege defendants used soy-based wire coating in
the engine control wiring harness of their Lexus vehicles,
which attracted rodents that chewed on the wiring, causing
damage to the vehicles. Opp'n at 4. Plaintiffs assert
Lexus vehicles can lose functionality and safety features
when wires in the engine control wiring harness are damaged
by rodents, which poses a safety risk to both class members
and the public at large. Id. The putative class
includes: “[a]ll persons in California who currently
own or lease, or who have owned or leased, any Lexus RX, GX,
ES and LS model vehicle with model years 2007-2017, ”
and the putative sub-class includes owners and lessors of the
same models of vehicles “who submitted their Vehicle
for repairs under the Vehicle's warranty for damage
related to rodent infestation and incurred out-of-pocket
expenses for such repairs after Lexus' refusal to cover
repairs under the Vehicle's warranty.” Compl.
¶¶ 58-59. Plaintiffs assert four claims including:
violation of the CLRA; violation of the UCL; breach of
implied warranty under the California Song-Beverly Act; and
breach of express warranty, on behalf of the proposed
subclass. Id. ¶¶ 67-106.
first-to-file rule is a doctrine of federal comity that
“allows a district court to transfer, stay, or dismiss
an action when a similar complaint has already been filed in
another federal court.” Alltrade, Inc. v. Uniweld
Products, Inc., 946 F.2d 622, 623 (9th Cir. 1991). The
rule “is designed to avoid placing an unnecessary
burden on the federal judiciary, and to avoid the
embarrassment of conflicting judgments.” Church of
Scientology of Calif. v. U.S. Dept. of Army, 611 F.2d
738, 750 (9th Cir. 1979). In determining whether the
first-to-file rule applies, a court considers the
“chronology of the lawsuits, similarity of the parties,
and similarity of the issues.” Kohn Law Group, Inc.
v. Auto Parts Mfg. Mississippi, Inc., 787 F.3d 1237,
1240 (9th Cir. 2015). If this action meets the requirements
of the first-to-file rule, the court has the discretion to
transfer or stay the action. Alltrade, 946 F.2d at
622. The court also retains the discretion to disregard the
first-to-file rule in the interests of equity. Id.
Section 1404(a) Motion to Transfer Venue
1404(a) provides: “For the convenience of parties and
witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may
transfer any civil action to any other district or division
where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). Accordingly, in deciding a motion to transfer under
§ 1404(a), the court weighs the following factors in
exercising its discretion: (1) the convenience of the
parties; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; and (3) the
interests of justice. Commodity Futures Trading
Comm'n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1979);
Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 639
(9th Cir. 1988). The moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating that an action should be transferred.
Commodity, 611 F.2d at 279.