Bussian v. Daimlerchrysler Corp., 1:004 CV 387.

Citation411 F.Supp.2d 614
Decision Date24 January 2006
Docket NumberNo. 1:004 CV 387.,1:004 CV 387.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
PartiesJohn BUSSIAN, Plaintiff, v. DAIMLERCHRYSLER CORPORATION, DaimlerChrysler AG, DaimlerChrysler Motors Company of Delaware, LLC, and DaimlerChrysler North America Holding Corporation, Defendants.

David M. Clark, John F. Bloss, Sr., Jonathan Wall, Clark Bloss & Wall, PLLC, Greensboro, NC, for John Bussian, Pamela Davis, Jeffrey Davis, Cynthia T. Compton, Lisa Mann Pannell, Catherine R. Snow, Tammy Stanley, Brenda Freeman, Clyde Freeman.

Burley Bayard Mitchell, Jr., Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Raleigh, NC, Charles A. Newman, Bryan Cave LLP, St. Louis, MI, Christopher Terry Graebe, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Raleigh, NC, Kathy A. Wisniewski, Bryan Cave LLP, St. Louis, Mi, for DaimlerChrysler AG, DaimlerChrysler North America Holding Corp., DaimlerChrysler Corp., DaimlerChrysler Motors Co. of Delaware, LLC.


OSTEEN, District Judge.

The court has before it this Standing Order 30 case in which the Magistrate Judge entered an order and recommendation. Plaintiff timely objected to the recommendation and Defendants responded.

Plaintiff filed a motion for stay of the order and recommendation to allow review of the objections by the District Court Judge. Defendants1 consented to the motion for stay. Magistrate Judge Sharp granted the stay until such time as the outstanding objections are reviewed and ruled upon by the District Court Judge.

The record has been reviewed by this court, and it is the opinion of this court that the recommendation is in accord with the facts and the prevailing law. The court adopts the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge entered November 3, 2005, as its own findings and conclusions.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 33] is DENIED as to Plaintiff's claim for breach of express warranties.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 33] is GRANTED as to Plaintiff's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and violation of the North Carolina Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and the claims are dismissed with prejudice.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motions to intervene [Doc. Nos. 24, 37, 54] are GRANTED.


SHARP, United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on (1) the motion of Defendants DaimlerChrysler Corporation, DaimlerChrysler Motors Company of Delaware, LLC, and DaimlerChrysler North America Holding Corporation1 (collectively "DaimlerChrysler") to dismiss Plaintiff John Bussian's Second Amended Class Action Complaint (Pleading No. 33)2; (2) a motion to intervene by Pamela and Jeffrey Davis, Cynthia T. Compton, and Lisa Mann Pannell (Pleading No. 24); (3) a motion to intervene by Catherine R. Snow and Tammy Stanley (Pleading No. 37); and (4) a motion to intervene by Clyde and Brenda Freeman (Pleading No. 54). All of the pending motions have been fully briefed and, on July 13, 2005, the Court heard the oral argument of counsel. The motions are ready for a ruling.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this class action lawsuit in the Superior Court for Durham County, North Carolina, seeking to represent a class of individuals in the United States, except within the State of Wisconsin, who owned or leased model year 1998 through 2003 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicles. The proposed class expressly excluded any individuals with claims against DaimlerChrysler for personal injuries. The complaint alleged that these Dodge Durango vehicles are "inherently defective in that the control arm and the ball joint3 on the front suspension design are faulty, inferior, and prone to sudden failure." (Pleading No. 1, Defs.' Notice of Removal, Ex. A, Class Action Compl. ¶ 2.) The complaint contained three counts: (1) breach of express warranties; (2) breach of the implied warranty of merchantability; and (3) violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act ("MMWA"), 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.4

On May 3, 2004, Defendants removed the case to this Court, and on May 10, 2004, 2004, filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). On September 1, 2004, Plaintiff filed a motion for class certification and a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. Pursuant to a Consent Scheduling Order entered on November 10, 2004, the Court permitted Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint and delayed Defendants' obligation to respond to Plaintiff's motion for class certification until after the Court had ruled on Defendants' motion to dismiss.

The Second Amended Class Action Complaint reduced the scope of the class from nationwide (excepting Wisconsin residents) to North Carolina residents only, and added a fourth count against Defendants alleging violation of North Carolina's Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("UDTPA"), N.C. Gen.Stat. § 75-1.1 et seq. Following the filing of Plaintiff's Second Amended Class Action Complaint, Defendants filed a renewed motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

II. Factual Allegations of Plaintiff's Second Amended Class Action Complaint

Between 1998 and 2003, DaimlerChrysler manufactured the Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle ("SUV") and sold between 450,000 and 886,000 to the public. (Pleading No. 29, Second Am. Class Action Compl. (hereinafter "Compl.") ¶¶ 1, 22, 23, 29.) In May 2001, Plaintiff John Bussian, a resident of Durham County, North Carolina, purchased a used 1998 Dodge Durango. Id. ¶¶ 9, 44. DaimlerChrysler had issued a 3-year/36,000 mile express written warranty to cover the 1998 Durango. Id. ¶¶ 25, 35. However, at the time of Plaintiff's purchase, the three-year express warranty on his Durango had expired. Id. ¶¶ 44-46, 56-64.

At some point after his purchase of the 1998 Durango, Plaintiff took the vehicle to a mechanic for an inspection. The mechanic allegedly informed Plaintiff that his ball joints had worn out prematurely and that failing to replace them would constitute a safety hazard. Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiff Bussian paid the mechanic $700.00 to replace the ball joints in his Durango. Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff alleges that after he became aware that many other Durango owners had experienced the same problem with ball joints, he requested that DaimlerChrysler reimburse him for the cost of repair. DaimlerChrysler refused to do so. Id. ¶ 47.

Plaintiff alleges that because the ball joints in Durangos cannot be re-lubricated, and the lubrication already inside the ball joints is "prone to deteriorate," the ball joints degrade or wear out rapidly. Id. ¶ 27. Ball joint failure can result in separation of the front wheels, collapse of the front suspension, or total loss of vehicle control. Id. ¶¶ 27, 38. Plaintiff alleges that ball joints are designed to, and ordinarily do, function for periods of time and mileages substantially in excess of those specified in DaimlerChrysler's warranties. Id. ¶ 28.

Plaintiff maintains that DaimlerChrysler became aware of the ball joints' propensity to wear out prematurely through (1) their own records of customer complaints regarding the ball joints; (2) over 20,000 warranty claims relating to premature ball joint failure; (3) over 850 reports of ball joint failure to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"); (4) an investigation by the NHTSA into the ball joints in Dodge Durangos; (5) various reports in the press concerning failure of the Durango's ball joints; (6) a class action lawsuit in Wisconsin regarding the Durango's ball joints; and (7) requests for action from consumer safety groups concerning the ball joints. Id. ¶¶ 30, 41. Plaintiff alleges that despite this knowledge that the ball joints were "inherently defective and prone to sudden failure," see id. ¶ 41, DaimlerChrysler refused to notify the public of the safety defect, issue a recall of affected vehicles, or reimburse owners for the replacement costs. Id. ¶¶ 30, 63, 68, 76-78, 83, 85, 88. Instead, Plaintiff alleges that DaimlerChrysler represented to the public that the ball joints had a projected design life of 10 years/150,000 miles, and that their "[i]mproved sealing assures durability equal to or greater than that provided by ball joints that require periodic lubrication." Id. ¶¶ 21, 87-88. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants made additional representations and warranties regarding the Durango on the website www.dodge. com:

Dodge power ... and long-lasting capability is what the 2003 Durango is all about.

Feeling secure in your vehicle is one of the most important purchase decisions you make. You can always count on Durango to get you through the tough situations....

Id. ¶ 24.

Plaintiff alleges that in addition to the costs of ball joint repair, which vary from $600 to $1,200, he and other prospective class members have been damaged in that their Durangos are "dangerous and hazardous to drive, resulting in loss of use, ... and substantially diminished value, including, without limitation, diminished resale value." Id. ¶¶ 39-40. Plaintiff also alleges that prospective class members have suffered peripheral damage to tires, tie-rod ends, and other parts of the steering and suspension systems due to defective ball joints. Id. ¶ 91. Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and other members of the prospective class, demands a jury trial compensatory, incidental and consequential damages, treble damages under the UDTPA, equitable relief under the MMWA, the establishment of a common fund, attorney's fees, interest and costs. Id. ¶¶ 64, 70, Prayer for Relief.

III. Discussion

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Randall v. United States, 30 F.3d 518, 522 (...

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