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Johnsen v. Honeywell International Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 12, 2015

SCOTT JOHNSEN, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Class Action Complaint (ECF No. 24). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. Upon consideration of the motion and related memoranda, the Court will grant Defendant's motion to dismiss, in part, and deny the motion, in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff Scott Johnsen brings this action on behalf of himself and the putative class of individuals and entities who own or have owned Honeywell TrueSTEAM humidifiers, model numbers HM506, HM509, and/or HM512. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 21) These humidifiers are installed in the home and cost anywhere from $792 to over $1, 000, independent of installation costs. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 15) Plaintiff alleges that the humidifiers had been available for purchase since 2008 and that approximately 206, 410 TrueSTEAM humidifiers were sold nationwide between 2008 and 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17)

In his Complaint, Plaintiff Johnsen contends that he installed two Honeywell TrueSTEAM humidifiers, Model number HM506, in his home on December 2, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 61) He claims that both humidifiers failed and required replacement several times within the 5 year warranty timeframe. (Id. at ¶¶ 62-69) The warranty provided:

Honeywell warrants this product to be free from defects in the workmanship or materials, under normal use and service, for a period of five (5) years from the date of purchase by the consumer. If at any time during the warranty period the product is determined to be defective or malfunctions, Honeywell shall repair or replace it (at Honeywell's option).

(Id. at ¶ 30) Additionally, the warranty states:

> HONEYWELL SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING ANY INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES RESULTING, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, FROM ANY BREACH OF ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, OR ANY OTHER FAILURE OF THIS PRODUCT. Some states do not allow the exclusion of limitation of incidental or consequential damages, so this limitation may not apply to you.

(Id. at ¶ 38)

According to Johnsen, despite Honeywell's representation that the TrueSTEAM humidifiers are of superior quality, the humidifiers "are plagued by design flaws." (Id. at ¶¶ 18-22) Specifically, the inside of the units is disposed to developing mineral deposits after a short period of time. (Id. at ¶ 23) This "scaling" can cause overheating, blockages, and component cracks and can also prevent the units from properly draining, causing scalding hot water to overflow. (Id. at 24) Plaintiff further alleges that the humidifier design results in steam being blown into the HVAC duct system, resulting in condensation which could lead to mold and fungus growth, as well as damage to surrounding appliances and property. (Id. at¶¶ 25, 28)

Plaintiff contends that Defendant's warranty is futile in that it does not provide the services set forth in the warranty and maintains an overly burdensome warranty claims process. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-36) Further, he alleges that Defendant routinely denies the remedy of repair or replacement and declines to reimburse customers for damage caused by the defective unit. (Id. at ¶ 37) Additionally, Plaintiff Johnsen maintains that the replacement remedy is futile because Defendant installs the same defective Honeywell humidifiers. (Id. at ¶ 40)

Specific to Plaintiff Johnsen, he claims that despite repeated failures of his Honeywell TrueSTEAM humidifiers, Defendant refused to refund Plaintiff's money or pay installation charges for the replacement humidifiers. (Id. at ¶ 68) He further asserts that the internet is replete with postings by customers, describing their bad experiences with the humidifiers. (Id. at ¶ 73) In the Amended Class Action Complaint, Plaintiff alleges on behalf of all Classes a claim for Breach of Express Warranty (Count 1), Negligence (Count 5), Negligent Misrepresentation (Count 6), Unjust Enrichment (Count 8), and for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief (Count 9). On behalf of the Missouri Class, Plaintiff claims Breach of Implied Warranties of Merchantability and Fitness for a Particular Purpose (Count 2), Failure of Essential Purpose (Count 3), Strict Products Liability (Count 4) and Violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (Count 7). Plaintiff requests actual, compensatory, exemplary, and statutory damages; restitution; injunctive and declaratory relief; punitive damages; and attorney's fees and costs.

On May 19, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Class Action Complaint, arguing that Defendant Honeywell fulfilled its obligations under the warranty and that the warranty expressly disclaims recovery of incidental or consequential damages. Defendant also maintains that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's negligence and strict products liability claims because Plaintiff has failed to identify a defect in his humidifier. Finally, Honeywell asserts that Plaintiff has failed to allege any misrepresentation or deception sufficient to state a claim for either negligent misrepresentation or violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that he has stated sufficient facts to set forth a plausible claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) such that the Court should deny Defendant's motion.

II. Standard for Ruling on a Motion to Dismiss

A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if the complaint fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While the Court cautioned that the holding does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Id. This standard simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the claim. Id. at 556.

Courts must liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations as true. See Id. at 555; see also Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining that courts should liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Further a court should not dismiss the complaint simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, "[w]here the allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). ...


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