Carpenter v. Petsmart, Inc., Case No.: 19-CV-1731-CAB-LL

Decision Date02 March 2020
Docket NumberCase No.: 19-CV-1731-CAB-LL
Citation441 F.Supp.3d 1028
Parties Todd CARPENTER, individually on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. PETSMART, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California

Christopher Decker Moon, Moon Law APC, San Diego, CA, for Plaintiff.

Stephanie A. Sheridan, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE ALLEGATIONS CONCERNING PROPOSED NATIONWIDE CLASS

Hon. Cathy Ann Bencivengo, United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to strike allegations concerning a putative nationwide class. The motion has been fully briefed, and the Court deems it suitable for submission without oral argument. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff Todd Carpenter alleges that on December 24, 2018, he bought four All Living Things® Tiny Tales™ Small Pet Habitats ("Tiny Tales Homes") at the Encinitas, California store of Defendant PetSmart, Inc. [Doc. No. 4 at ¶ 5.] Tiny Tales Homes are "artificial habitats or cages for pet hamsters, gerbils, and mice." [Id. at ¶ 1.] There are a variety of types or models of Tiny Tales Homes, and Carpenter bought one "Rocket Ship," one "Castle," and two "Clubhouse" units. [Id. at ¶¶ 5, 19.] The Tiny Tales Homes can be connected to each other using cylindrical plastic tubes ("Transport Tubes") to create a larger habitat of multiple units for the rodent. [Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.] These Transport Tubes attach to the Tiny Tales Homes using circular connection pieces made of soft, malleable plastic ("Connectors"). [Id. at ¶ 23.] According to the operative First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), the Connectors are defective because rodents meant to be housed in the Tiny Tales Homes can chew through the Connectors until they no longer function, resulting in the Transport Tube detaching and allowing the rodent to escape. [Id. at ¶ 32.] The FAC alleges that the PetSmart knew about this defect, and that it renders Tiny Tales Homes worthless. [Id. at ¶¶ 1, 46-68.]

Carpenter claims that this defect resulted in the loss of two hamsters he housed in the Tiny Tales Homes. Specifically, the FAC alleges that Carpenter used Connectors and Transport Tubes to form two separate habitats of two Tiny Tales Homes each. [Id. at ¶ 40.] He put one hamster in each habitat. At some point, both hamsters allegedly chewed through the Connectors, causing the Transport Tubes to dislodge, and allowing the hamsters to escape, never to be found again. [Id. at ¶¶ 41-43.].

The FAC seeks to assert claims on behalf of a nationwide class of Tiny Tales Homes purchasers along with a California subclass. [Id. ¶ 83.] It defines the nationwide class as "all citizens of the United States who, within the relevant statute of limitations periods, purchased Defendant's Tiny Tales Homes." [Id. ] The California class consists of "all citizens of California who, within four years prior to the filing of this Complaint, purchased Defendant's Tiny Tales Homes." [Id. ] The FAC asserts three claims under California consumer protection laws on behalf of the California subclass, three common law claims for fraud by omission, breach of implied warranty, and unjust enrichment on behalf of both the nationwide class and California subclass, and a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act ("MMWA"), on behalf of the nationwide class and California subclass. As for relief, the FAC seeks damages, an injunction prohibiting PetSmart from selling Tiny Tales Homes in the manner it currently does, punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs.

II. Legal Standards

Rule 12(f) allows the Court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R.Civ. P. 12(f). "The purpose of Rule 12(f) is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial." Roberts v. Wyndham Int'l, Inc. , No. 12-CV-5083-PSG, 2012 WL 6001459, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 30, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). In general, however, "striking the pleadings is considered an extreme measure, and Rule 12(f) motions are therefore generally viewed with disfavor and infrequently granted." Clark v. LG Elec. U.S.A., Inc. , No. 13-CV-485 JM, 2013 WL 5816410, at *16 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). At the same time, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(d)(1)(D) provides that the court may ‘require that the pleadings be amended to eliminate allegations about representation of absent persons and that the action proceed accordingly.’ " Roberts , 2012 WL 6001459, at *3. Thus, "the court may strike class allegations if the complaint plainly reflects that a class action cannot be maintained." Id.

III. Discussion

PetSmart moves to strike allegations related to a nationwide class on four grounds: (1) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over PetSmart with respect to claims by putative class members who purchased Tiny Tales Homes outside of California; (2) Carpenter cannot bring nationwide class claims under California law; (3) Carpenter lacks standing to assert claims under other states' laws; and (4) a nationwide class would be unmanageable. In his opposition, Carpenter states that he "does not seek to apply California substantive law to the claims of unnamed, non-resident class members." [Doc. No. 18 at 23.] Thus, the second ground is moot. As discussed below, the personal jurisdiction and standing arguments are persuasive, so the Court need not address PetSmart's assertion that a nationwide class action would be unmanageable.

A. Specific Personal Jurisdiction Over PetSmart For Sales of Tiny Tales Homes Outside of California

Although the motion is framed as a motion to strike under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), with respect to the contention that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over non-California class members, the motion is akin to a motion to dismiss any claims asserted on behalf of the non-California class members for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2).1 "Where defendants move to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate." Dole Food Co. Inc. v. Watts , 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002). "There are two limitations on a court's power to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant: the applicable state personal jurisdiction rule and constitutional principles of due process." Sher v. Johnson , 911 F.2d 1357, 1360 (9th Cir. 1990) ; see also In re W. States Wholesale Natural Gas Antitrust Litig. , 715 F.3d 716, 741 (9th Cir. 2013) ("Personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is proper if permitted by a state's long-arm statute and if the exercise of that jurisdiction does not violate federal due process."). "Under California's long-arm statute, California state courts may exercise personal jurisdiction ‘on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.’ " Daimler AG v. Bauman , 571 U.S. 117, 125, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) (quoting Cal. Civ. Proc. Code Ann. § 410.10 (West 2004)). Thus, "the jurisdictional analyses under state law and federal due process are the same." Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co. , 374 F.3d 797, 800-801 (9th Cir. 2004) ).

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, the defendant must have "certain minimum contacts with [the State] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown , 564 U.S. 915, 923, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (internal quotations omitted)). This minimum contacts jurisdiction may be either "general or all-purpose jurisdiction," or "specific or case-linked jurisdiction." Id. at 919, 131 S.Ct. 2846 (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia S.A. v. Hall , 466 U.S. 408, 414 nn. 8.9, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984) ). "The paradigmatic locations where general jurisdiction is appropriate over a corporation are its place of incorporation and its principal place of business." Ranza v. Nike, Inc. , 793 F.3d 1059, 1069 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Daimler , 571 U.S. at 137, 134 S.Ct. 746 ). Here, there does not appear to be any dispute that PetSmart is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Arizona. Thus, the Court cannot exercise general personal jurisdiction over PetSmart, and the only issue is whether the Court can exercise specific personal jurisdiction over PetSmart for the claims of unnamed putative class members arising out of sales of Tiny Tales Homes that occurred outside of California.

PetSmart argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it for claims of unnamed class members arising out of purchases of the Tiny Tales Homes that occurred outside of California based on the Supreme Court's holding in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty. , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 1780, 198 L.Ed.2d 395 (2017). In Bristol-Myers Squibb , more than 600 plaintiffs, most of whom were not California residents, filed a civil action in California state court alleging a variety of state law claims caused by the drug Plavix. Id. at 1777. The California Supreme Court had used a "sliding scale approach to specific jurisdiction." Id. at 1778. "Applying this test, the [California Supreme Court] majority concluded that [Bristol-Myers Squibb's] extensive contacts with California’ permitted the exercise of specific jurisdiction ‘based on a less direct connection between [Bristol-Myers Squibb's] forum activities and plaintiffs' claims than might otherwise be required.’ [ ] This attenuated requirement was met, the majority...

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