United States District Court, N.D. California
JAMES C. BALES, Plaintiff,
FCA U.S. LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company, and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER RE MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO STRIKE AND
ORDER TO REASSIGN CASE TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE (BY
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
defective product action, defendant moves to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6) and moves to strike under Rule 12(f). For the
following reasons, the motion to dismiss is
Denied and the motion to strike is
Denied in part and Granted
November 2013, plaintiff James Bales bought his 2013 RAM 1500
pickup truck from a dealer authorized by defendant Fiat
Chrysler Automobiles U.S. LLC (FCA). In May 2014, he took it
to an FCA authorized repair facility to fix a warning light
on the dashboard. In July 2015 and January 2016, the pickup
truck's airbag light lit up, so Bales took it back to the
repair facility. In August 2017, the airbag light lit up
again and the pickup truck appeared to be stuck in fourth
gear in “limp mode.” After each visit, Bales
reasonably believed that the facility had repaired the issue
because the service manager or repair technician stated that
his pickup truck was operating normally and safe to drive. In
February 2018, the airbag light came on yet again along with
the check engine light. After bringing it to the repair
facility for the fifth time, Bales allegedly learned of a
defect in his pickup truck's electrical architecture for
the first time (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3, 24-25).
now alleges that all FCA vehicles, including his pickup
truck, are equipped with similarly structured electrical
architecture. These electrical architectures include: the
TIPM Electrical Architecture, the PowerNet Electrical
Architecture, and the Fiat Compact Electrical Architecture.
The electrical architectures use either the Totally
Integrated Power Module (“TIPM”) or its
successor, the Body Control Module (BCM), to control
functions in the vehicle. Bales' truck uses the BCM and
PowerNet architecture (id. at 4-5).
alleges that FCA knew of defective electrical architecture
since at least 2007 demonstrated by: multiple TIPM-related
recalls and technical service bulletins (TSB), FCA's
exhaustive pre-release vehicle testing, FCA's exclusive
access to post-sale data about the performance of and repairs
made to its vehicles, numerous consumer complaints submitted
to both FCA and National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA), and two NHTSA investigations into
TIPM-related complaints. Notwithstanding the history of
module problems in its vehicles, FCA allegedly began
installing the various electrical architectures using BCM in
2011 model year vehicles and continues to install these
electrical architectures and modules into its vehicles
(id. at 5-6, 26, 144-147).
the past decade, 30 lines of FCA vehicles have allegedly been
plagued with electrical problems arising from defective
electrical architectures and modules. For example, defects in
TIPM-6, BCM, and PowerNet caused vehicles to “roll away
without warning” resulting in a recall of over a
million vehicles (2011-2017 MY Ram 4500/5500, 2009-2017 MY
Ram 1500, 2010-2017 MY Ram 2500, and 2010-2017 MY Ram 3500).
The complaint details more issues with FCA vehicles: BCM and
PowerNet defects caused “turn signal malfunction”
(recalled 2013 MY Ram trucks); BCM defect caused warning
light to fail “when tire pressure was low”
(recalled 2015 MY Dodge Dart vehicles); BCM defect caused
“no-start or engine stalling while driving”; BCM
and PowerNet defects caused “headlights and taillights
to suddenly shut off”; BCM defect disabled wiper
system; TIPM defect caused the airbag warning lamp to
“incorrectly illuminate”; TIPM defect caused
“engine stall while driving” (recalled MY 2007
Jeep Wrangler and MY 2007 Dodge Nitro vehicles); and TIPM-7
defect caused vehicles' “inability to record
data” (id. at 6-16, 31-32).
the severity and number of these defects, Bales claims that
FCA understood that the defective electrical architecture
(whether it utilized a TIPM or BCM) posed a heightened risk
of problems for consumers. Bales alleges that FCA never
disclosed the PowerNet defects before he bought his pickup
truck, nor at any point during his ownership of the car.
Bales also alleges that FCA never instructed its retail
sellers or authorized service and repair facilities to
disclose the PowerNet defect to drivers or potential
purchasers or lessees of vehicles equipped with any of
FCA's defective electrical architectures (id. at
now brings four claims for relief: breach of express warranty
violation of Song-Beverly Act, breach of implied warranty
violation of Song-Beverly Act, violation of the Song-Beverly
Act Section 1793.2, and fraudulent inducement-concealment.
FCA moves to dismiss the fourth claim regarding fraudulent
inducement and moves to strike portions of the complaint.
This case was filed in the Superior Court of California,
County of San Francisco in July 2019 and was removed to the
United States District Court of the Northern District of
California in August 2019. Originally assigned to Magistrate
Judge Kandis Westmore, this new action was reassigned to the
undersigned on October 2, 2019. This order follows full
briefing and oral argument.
Motion to Dismiss.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). A claim is facially
plausible when there are sufficient factual allegations to
draw a reasonable inference that defendants are liable for
the misconduct alleged. While a court “must take all of
the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” it
is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 677.
“[C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted
inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim.” Epstein v. Wash. Energy
Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 1996). Dismissal is
only proper if there is either a “lack of cognizable
legal theory” or “the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory.”
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d
696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
Bales Sufficiently States a Claim For Fraudulent