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Anderson v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

December 29, 2017

MICHELLE ANDERSON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMAPNY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          BETH PHILLIPS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ford Motor Company's, (“Ford”), Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 16.) Ford argues that certain aspects of Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because she lacks standing to assert them. In addition, Ford argues that Counts II and III should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, Ford's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Complaint alleges the following facts, all of which are deemed to be true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Ford manufactures, markets, and distributes automobiles in the United States. Starting in the 2007 model year, Ford introduced vehicles with expanded sunroofs known as panoramic sunroofs. Panoramic sunroofs are made of tempered or laminated glass, and Ford is alleged to have used tempered glass. (Doc. 1, ¶ 24.) Ford also used ceramic paint or enamel on the glass prior to tempering. (Doc. 1, ¶ 27.) Plaintiff alleges that the use of ceramic paint or enamel in panoramic sunroofs make them prone to spontaneously bursting. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 28-29, 32.) Plaintiff further alleges that Ford was aware of this defect in its panoramic sunroofs based on a number of studies on panoramic roofs and consumer complaints of panoramic roofs spontaneously shattering. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 33-45, 47-50; see also Doc. 1, ¶ 30-31.)

         In January 2016, Plaintiff purchased a new 2016 Ford Escape from Friendly Ford in Springfield, Missouri. Plaintiff's Escape included a panoramic sunroof. Plaintiff alleges she researched the vehicle before purchasing it and that the panoramic sunroof was a “huge selling point” in her buying decision. (Doc. 1, ¶ 70.) On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff was driving on I-44 East near Springfield when she alleges she heard what sounded like a shotgun being fired. Thereafter, Plaintiff discovered a hole in the sunroof as well as shattered glass inside the vehicle. Plaintiff took the vehicle to Friendly Ford to have the sunroof repaired, but the dealer told her that the sunroof was not covered by the warranty. Plaintiff then paid to have the sunroof replaced. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 72-73.) Plaintiff asserts that she would not have purchased the vehicle or would have paid substantially less given this defect. (Doc. 1, ¶ 74.)

         Count I asserts a breach of express warranty on behalf of a nationwide class, or alternatively on behalf of a Missouri class. Count II asserts fraudulent concealment on behalf of a nationwide class, or alternatively on behalf of a Missouri class. Count III asserts violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, (“MMPA”), on behalf of a Missouri class. Count IV alleges breach of implied warranty of merchantability on behalf of a Missouri class. All four counts assert claims on behalf of purchasers of sixteen Ford vehicles that are sold with panoramic sunroofs.

         Ford first argues that Plaintiff does not have standing to pursue claims concerning the fifteen vehicle models she did not purchase. Ford then argues that Counts II and III should be dismissed for any of three independent reasons: (1) Plaintiff has not alleged an actionable omission, (2) Ford did not have a duty to disclose information to Plaintiff, or (3) the claims are barred under Missouri's economic loss doctrine. Plaintiff argues that the standing argument is more appropriately considered at the class certification stage and that Counts II and III properly state causes of action for concealment and violation of the MMPA. The Court resolves these arguments below.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standing

         Article III of the United States Constitution grants federal courts limited jurisdiction to decide “cases and controversies.” To satisfy this jurisdictional standing requirement, a plaintiff must establish (1) an injury in fact, which is (2) fairly traceable to the defendant's conduct, and which (3) will likely be redressed by a favorable decision. See Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-181 (2000). In a class action, the plaintiff seeking to represent a class must establish that she, personally, has standing to bring the cause of action. If the plaintiff cannot maintain the action on her own behalf, she may not seek such relief on behalf of the class. O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 494 (1974).

         Ford argues that Plaintiff lacks standing to assert claims as to the fifteen vehicle models she did not purchase because she suffered no loss as to those vehicles. Plaintiff essentially argues that she can represent a class of consumers who bought the panoramic sunroof. The Court agrees that there is a factual dispute as to whether the “product” at issue is the panoramic sunroof or the car. And, there is an additional dispute as to whether the panoramic sunroofs for all sixteen models are sufficiently similar, such that Plaintiff “bought” the same sunroof as those who bought one of the other fifteen Ford models. Ford may be correct, but the Court cannot resolve this dispute at this stage of the case. Moreover, even if the Court later determines that Ford is correct and Plaintiff can assert claims with respect to the Ford Escape only, the matter may be more efficiently resolved at the class certification stage by limiting the class definition. For these reasons, Ford's request to dismiss all claims related to the other fifteen models is denied.

         B. Failure to State a Claim[1]

         Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper where the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Cook v. ACS State & Local Solutions, Inc., 663 F.3d 989, 992 (8th Cir. 2011); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (requiring “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”). The Complaint must allege facts sufficient to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Walker v. Barrett, 650 F.3d 1198, 1203 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To sufficiently plead a plausible claim, the factual content of the claim must allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Horras v. American Capital Strategies, 729 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the “court accepts as true all factual allegations but is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Cook, 663 F.3d at 992. Finally, the Court must construe “all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Palmer v. Ill. Farmers Ins. Co., 666 F.3d 1081, 1083 (8th Cir. 2012).

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