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Victorino v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 10, 2018

CARLOS VICTORINO and ADAM TAVITIAN, individually, and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
FCA U.S. LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, et al., Defendant.


          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel, United States District Judge.

         Defendant FCA U.S. LLC filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's order on summary judgment filed on February 27, 2018, (Dkt. No. 206). (Dkt. No. 212.) Plaintiffs filed an opposition and Defendant replied. (Dkt. Nos. 223, 227.) Based on the reasoning below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for reconsideration.


         Plaintiffs Carlos Victorino (“Victorino”) and Adam Tavitian (“Tavitian”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed a putative first amended class action complaint based on defects in the 2013-2016 Dodge Dart vehicles equipped with a Fiat C635 manual transmission that cause their vehicles' clutches to fail and stick to the floor. (Dkt. No. 104, FAC ¶¶ 1, 2.) Defendant FCA U.S. LLC (“Defendant” or “FCA”) designs, manufactures, markets, distributes, sells warrants and services these vehicles. (Id. ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs claim the “clutch pedal loses pressure, sticks to the floor, and fails to engage/disengage gears. As a result, the Class Vehicles exhibit stalling, failure to accelerate, and premature failure of the Clutch System's components, including the clutch master cylinder (“CMC”) and reservoir hose, clutch slave cylinder (“CSC”) and release bearing, clutch disc, pressure plate, and flywheel (the “clutch defect”).” (Id. ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiffs allege two separate defects in the Clutch System. First, the clutch defect is caused by the degradation of the clutch reservoir hose, which releases plasticizer and fibers, causing contamination of the hydraulic fluid that bathes the components of the Clutch System. (Id. ¶ 7.) As a result, the contamination causes the internal and external seals of the CMC and CSC to swell and fail. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.) According to Plaintiffs, when fluid in the hydraulic system becomes contaminated, all of the components that have been exposed to the contaminated fluid must be replaced and any steel tubing must also be thoroughly cleaned with brake cleaner and blown out until dry to ensure that none of the contaminants remain. (Id. ¶ 8.) Second, Plaintiffs claim an additional defect in the CSC which exacerbates the problems with the Clutch System. FCA designed its CSC as an assembly composed of an aluminum body with a clipped-on plastic base whereas other manufacturers' slave cylinders are composed of a single, solid cast aluminum component which creates a rigid base. (Id. ¶ 13.) Defendant's two-piece design destabilizes the cylinder at its base, “which can result in unintended lateral movement and cause the piston inside the cylinder to become jammed.” (Id.)

         Plaintiffs alleged five causes of action for violations of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), California's unfair competition law (“UCL”), breach of implied warranty pursuant to Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, breach of implied warranty pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and unjust enrichment. (Dkt. No. 104, FAC.)

         In the Court's order on summary judgment, it granted the motion on the CLRA and UCL causes of action because Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a “genuine issue of material fact that Defendant knew or should have known about the alleged defects concerning the swelling of the CSC's seal caused by the leaching plasticizer and the two-piece composition of the CSC.” (Dkt. No. 206 at 22.) However, with regards to the alleged defect of leaching plasticizer from the reservoir hose affecting the seals of the CMC, FCA acknowledged it had knowledge of this defect in October 2013. (Id.) Therefore, because Victorino purchased his vehicle on March 22, 2014, the Court denied summary judgment as to Victorino. (Id.) The Court also denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the breach of implied warranty of merchantability under state and federal law and granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the unjust enrichment claim as to Tavitian but not Victorino's claims concerning the defect in the CMC and reservoir hose. (Dkt. No. 206 at 25.)

         Defendant moves to reconsider the Court's order because new evidence discovered during a March 20, 2018 repair of Victorino's vehicle's clutch refutes the sole remaining basis for his UCL, CLRA and unjust enrichment claims based on an alleged defect related to the clutch master cylinder and reservoir hose involving leaching plasticizer and seal swelling. (Dkt. No. 212.)

         A. Motion for Reconsideration

         Defendant moves for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 54(b) based on the court's inherent authority to modify, alter or revoke a non-final order. Rule 54(b) provides that an interlocutory order “may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b).

         Reconsideration of interlocutory orders under Rule 54 is an “inherent” power of the court. City of Los Angeles, Harbor Div. v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 888 (9th Cir. 2001); Smith v. Massachusetts, 543 U.S. 462, 475 (2005) (“[a] district court has the inherent power to reconsider and modify its interlocutory orders prior to the entry of judgment[.]”) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting on other grounds). For purposes of reconsideration under Rule 54, district courts look to the standard on motions for reconsideration under Rule 59 and Rule 60(b). See Hansen v. Schubert, 459 F.Supp.2d 973, 998 n.5 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (“While the standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of final judgments or orders under Rules 59(e) (final judgments) and 60(b) (final judgments and orders) technically do not delimit the court's inherent discretion to reconsider interlocutory orders, the court nonetheless finds them to be helpful guides to the exercise its discretion.”); Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Harry Johnson Plumbing & Excavating Co., Inc., Case No. 16cv5090-LRS, 2017 WL 5639944, at *1 (E.D. Wash. Oct. 23, 1997) (“As neither Rule 54(b) or this court's Local Rules provide a standard, typically, district courts will apply standards substantially similar to those used under Rule 59(e) and 60(b).”).

         “[A] motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law.” 389 Orange St. Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999). A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000).

         In addition, Local Civil Rule 7.1(i)(1) provides that a motion for reconsideration must include an affidavit or certified statement of a party or attorney “setting forth the material facts and circumstances surrounding each prior application, including inter alia: (1) when and to what judge the application was made, (2) what ruling or decision or order was made thereon, and (3) what new and different facts and circumstances are claimed to exist which did not exist, or were not shown upon such prior application.” S.D. Local Civ. R. 7.1(i)(1).

         B. ...

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