Bland v. Freightliner LLC

Citation206 F.Supp.2d 1202
Decision Date15 April 2002
Docket NumberNo. 8:01-CV-1484-T-17-EAJ.,8:01-CV-1484-T-17-EAJ.
PartiesJohn BLAND, an individual, and Margaret Bland, his wife, Plaintiffs, v. FREIGHTLINER LLC, a foreign corporation, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida

Gregory Keith Atkinson, Peterson & Myers, P.A., Lakeland, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Myron Shapiro, Kenn W. Goff, Herzfeld & Rubin, Miami, FL, for Defendants.



This cause comes before the Court on Defendant, Freightliner LLC's (hereinafter "Freightliner") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State Cause of Action. (Dkt. 6) and response thereto (Dkt. 7).


A district court should not dismiss a complaint unless it appears, "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff may not merely "label" his or her claims. See Blumel v. Mylander, 919 F.Supp. 423, 425 (M.D.Fla.1996). At a minimum, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a "short and plain statement of the claim [that] will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." See Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may only examine the four corners of the complaint. See Rickman v. Precisionaire, Inc., 902 F.Supp. 232, 233 (M.D.Fla.1995). "Any exhibit attached to [the] complaint `becomes a part thereof for all purposes.' Accordingly [the] court may utilize [attached exhibits] in considering a motion to dismiss." DiDomenico v. New York Life Ins. Co., 837 F.Supp. 1203, 1205 (M.D.Fla.1993) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c)). "The threshold sufficiency that a complaint must meet to survive a motion to dismiss is exceedingly low." Ancata v. Prison Health Serv., Inc., 769 F.2d 700, 703 (11th Cir.1985).

In addition, a court must accept the plaintiff's well-pled facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Howry v. Nisus, Inc., 910 F.Supp. 576 (M.D.Fla.1995). However, when on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations of the complaint will support the cause of action, dismissal of the complaint is appropriate. See Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 922 F.2d 1536 (11th Cir. 1991).


The following allegations, taken from the complaint and its attached exhibits, are considered true for the present purpose of deciding whether to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint. See Beck v. Deloitte et al., 144 F.3d 732, 735 (11th Cir.1998). On or about April 19, 1999, Plaintiffs, John Bland and Margaret Bland (hereinafter "the Blands"), purchased a new 1999 Freightliner FL60, Showhauler 204 (hereinafter "Freightliner Vehicle") from an Ohio truck dealership, Sweeney Truck Sales d/b/a Western Ohio Freightliner (hereinafter "Sweeny Truck Sales") for ninety-one thousand eight hundred seventy one dollars ($91,871.00). The Blands financed the Freightliner Vehicle through a third party consumer installment loan and are currently submitting monthly payments to the third party creditor.

Soon after driving their newly purchased Freightliner Vehicle, the Blands soon began experiencing defects, including faulty transmission and cruise control operations.1 For each discovery, the Blands reported the defects to various Freightliner dealers around the country, requesting the repair of the newly purchased Freightliner Vehicle. The defects and subsequent repair requests occurred on twenty-one separate occasions. To no avail, the mechanics attempted to properly restore the Freightliner Vehicle to an operable state. On January 24, 2001, the Blands notified Freightliner, through one of its dealerships, of their intent to rescind the purchase of the Freightliner Vehicle. At some point thereafter, the Blands initially filed a three-count lawsuit in state court requesting equitable and legal relief to compensate for the losses flowing from the defective Freightliner Vehicle.2 The case was removed to federal court based upon diversity of citizenship. The Blands seek to rescind the contract for Freightliner's failure to cure the defects. Alternatively, the Blands seek to revoke the acceptance of their new motor vehicle pursuant to Section 672.711, Florida Statutes (2001). Finally, the Blands seek monetary damages for breach of express warranty pursuant to the terms of the manufacturer's warranty that Freightliner provided.

In response, Freightliner, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed its Motion to Dismiss, on all three counts, claiming the Blands failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Alternatively, Freightliner requests the case be transferred to a different forum, because it claims a lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Section 47.051, Florida Statutes. This Court will take up each count and the choice of venue argument accordingly.

I. Plaintiffs' Complaint
a. Count I—Rescission

"The rescission of contract `amounts to the unmaking of a contract, or an undoing of it from the beginning, and not merely a termination...'" Wilson v. Par Builders II, Inc., 879 F.Supp. 1187, 1190 (M.D.Fla.1995) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Ed.) See also Borck v. Holewinski, 459 So.2d 405 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984) (stating the effect of rescission is to render the contract abrogated and of no force and effect from the beginning). "The rescission `may be effected by mutual agreement of parties; by one of the parties declaring rescission of the contract, without the other if a legally sufficient ground therefore exists; or by applying to courts for a decree of rescission.'" Wilson, 879 F.Supp. at 1190. "It is an action of an equitable nature." Id. Under Florida law, rescission may be granted where a party breaches a term that is an essential part of the bargain between contracting parties, such that a contract is essentially destroyed. Hibiscus Associates Ltd. v. Board of Trustees of Policemen and Firemen Retirement System of the City of Detroit, 50 F.3d 908 (11th Cir.1995).

The fundamental requirements necessary to state a cause of action for rescission of contract are: (1) the character or relationship of the parties; (2) the making of a contract; (3) the existence of fraud, mutual mistake, false representation, impossibility of performance, or other ground for rescission or cancellation; (4) the party seeking rescission had rescinded the contract and notified the other party to the contract of such rescission; (5) the moving party has received benefits from the contract, he should further allege an offer to restore these benefits to the party furnishing them, if restoration is possible; and (6) the moving party has no adequate remedy at law. Crown Ice Machine Leasing Co. v. Sam Senter Farms, Inc., 174 So.2d 614, 617 (Fla. 2d DCA 1965).

The Plaintiffs have met the requirements to sustain the count for rescission.

1. Relationship of the Parties

In order to maintain an action for rescission of contract, the parties to the lawsuit must lie in contractual privity. Sumitomo Corp. of America v. M/V Saint Venture, 683 F.Supp. 1361, 1369 (M.D.Fla. 1988). Privity of contract is that connection or relationship which exists between two or more contracting parties. Id.

The relationship between the Blands and the dealer, Sweeny Truck Sales, is clear and indisputable. The two respective parties lie in contractual privity. However, to determine whether the Blands and the manufacturer, Freightliner, lie in privity merits a closer examination.

The Blands allege, in their complaint, that Sweeny Truck Sales acted as Freightliner's agent. In the context of vehicular-dealer-manufacturer agency relationships, Foote v. Green Tree Acceptance, Inc. is instructive. 597 So.2d 803 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). In Foote, the court examined the relationship between a motor vehicle purchaser, a motor vehicle dealer, and a motor vehicle manufacturer. The court held that a sufficient nexus existed between the purchaser and the manufacturer. Id. at 805. The purchaser in Foote was required, according to the warranty agreement, to contact the dealer for vehicular repairs. Id. at 804. If the dealer failed to repair the defective vehicle, the warranty required the purchaser to contact the manufacturer to allow the manufacturer to make a repair attempt. Id. After repeated attempts, the dealers failed to repair the vehicle. Id. Instead of contacting the manufacturers, the purchasers opted to revoke acceptance of the vehicle. The manufacturer sought summary judgment, claiming the failure to contact the manufacturer prohibited the revocation. Id. The purchasers claimed the dealer acted as the manufacturer's agent and that the numerous contacts with the dealer served as notice to the manufacturer. Id. The court allowed the jury to determine whether the issue of agency existed. Id. at 805.

While the Blands did not directly purchase the Freightliner Vehicle in question from the manufacturer, Freightliner, the Blands have sufficiently shown, for the purposes of this motion, a relation between Freightliner and themselves. The Blands allege that the dealer, Sweeny Truck Sales, acted as Freightliner's agent. The Blands couch their agency theory on a number of factual allegations. In the attached sales contract, the dealer identifies Freightliner when waiving liability for failure to deliver the vehicle. In the same sales contract, a signature line appears requiring that a dealer or Authorized Representative sign the document. In another portion of the complaint, the Blands allege that the owner's warranty information requires them to promptly return the vehicle to an authorized Freightliner dealer for...

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