Cox v. Porsche Fin. Servs.

Decision Date19 February 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 16-23409-CIV-GAYLES/LOUIS
PartiesSTEVEN MICHAEL COX, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. PORSCHE FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
ORDER

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for partial summary judgment [ECF Nos. 225 & 241] (collectively, the "Motions"). The Court heard argument on the Motions on January 29, 2020. [ECF No. 258]. The Court has reviewed the Motions and the record and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, the Motions are each granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Factual1

This action stems from a 2015 lease transaction that Plaintiff Steven Michael Cox completed with a non-party dealer, Porsche of Fort Myers (the "Dealer"). The Dealer agreed togive Plaintiff $25,000 for his 2015 Hyundai Genesis and then agreed to apply that trade-in value to Plaintiff's lease transaction for a 2015 Porsche Cayman. [Pl.'s SUMF, ¶¶ 12, 18]. Plaintiff took the deal and executed with the Dealer a single-payment lease2 for $36,539.30 due at lease signing. [Id., ¶ 18]. Plaintiff paid with a check for $11,539.30 and with the $25,000 credit for his trade-in. [Id.].

Plaintiff's lease agreement included a section titled "Trade-in Vehicle," which is used to show that a vehicle is being traded in as part of a lease agreement. [Id., ¶ 25].3 The Dealer listed Plaintiff's 2015 Hyundai Genesis under "Trade-in Vehicle" on his lease form. [Id., ¶ 24]. Plaintiff's lease agreement also included a section titled "Net Trade-In Allowance" (the "NTIA"), which represents the gross agreed-upon value of a trade-in less the balance owed on the trade-in. [Id., ¶ 6]. The Dealer assigned Plaintiff's trade-in a gross value of $25,000. [Id., ¶ 27]. Plaintiff owed no balance on the trade. [Id.]. However, under the NTIA section of Plaintiff's lease, the Dealer stated "N/A" to mean "not applicable." [Id.].

Among other things, the NTIA is used to determine the "Capitalized Cost Reduction" (the "CCR"), which represents "the amount of any Net Trade-in Allowance, rebate, noncash credit, or cash you pay that reduces the Gross Capitalized Cost4." [Id., ¶ 31]. Dealers may apply a CCR to a lease to reduce the "Adjusted Capitalized Cost," which may reduce other lease terms, such as the interest ("rent charge") and taxes paid on the lease. [Id., ¶¶ 31-32; Def.'s SMF, ¶¶ 31-32]. Under the CCR section of Plaintiff's lease, the Dealer again stated "N/A." [Pl.'s SUMF, ¶ 31].

When Plaintiff noticed that his lease form indicated "N/A" under the NTIA section, he asked the Dealer where the credit for his trade-in was. [Id., ¶ 19]. The Dealer pointed to the section showing Plaintiff's total due at signing: $36,539.30. [Cox Dep., ECF No. 241-8 at 83:13-14]. Satisfied, Plaintiff signed the lease form and left the dealership with his 2015 Porsche Cayman and no money owed to the Dealer. [Id., at 84:1-3; 86:1-4]. Weeks later, Plaintiff reviewed the lease with his neighbor, a former car dealer, who told Plaintiff that his rent charge was "extremely high." [Id., at 95:3-96:19]. After later consulting an attorney, Plaintiff came to believe that the Dealer overcharged him $3,970.93 in interest and sales tax by failing to apply his trade-in as a CCR. [Pl.'s SUMF, ¶ 39].

Defendant Porsche Financial Services, Inc., generates and provides to the Dealer lease agreement forms that Defendant guarantees "comply with Federal law and the law of the state where the Dealer is located," if completed accurately. [Id., ¶¶ 3, 4]. Defendant also reviews every lease that the Dealer executes through a two-step process: (1) credit underwriting and (2) contract processing. [Id., ¶ 9]. Credit underwriting involves Defendant running a lease applicant's credit to determine whether it will accept the risk of lending to the applicant. [Id.]. Contract processing means that once Defendant approves the applicant's credit and the Dealer and the applicant execute a lease agreement, Defendant reviews the lease agreement to, among other things, ensure that the lease is compliant with the Truth-in-Lending Act. [Id., ¶¶ 10-11]. If Defendant decides to purchase the lease, then the lease is assigned to Porsche Leasing Ltd.,5 and serviced by Defendant. [Id., ¶ 8; Def.'s SMF, ¶¶ 8-9]. Relevant here, Defendant provided to the Dealer the lease agreement thatPlaintiff completed, approved Plaintiff's credit application, reviewed Plaintiff's executed lease agreement for compliance with the Truth-in-Lending Act, and currently services Plaintiff's lease. [Pl.'s SUMF, ¶¶ 16, 17, 20, 21].

B. Procedural

On August 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed this class action6 under both federal question and diversity jurisdiction against Defendants (1) Porsche Cars North America, Inc., (2) Porsche Leasing Ltd., and (3) Porsche Financial Services, Inc., alleging nine counts7: (1) Consumer Leasing Act ("CLA") and Regulation M violations, (2) per se violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act ("FDUTPA") based on CLA and Regulation M violations, (3) FDUTPA violation based on the Dealer's failure to disclose how the NTIA was applied, (4) FDUTPA violation based on the Dealer's failure to apply the NTIA to reduce the CCR, (5) breach of contract, (6) breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (7) negligent training and supervision (only against Defendant Porsche Cars North America, Inc.), (8) unjust enrichment, and (9) negligence. [ECFNo. 1]. In his Complaint, Plaintiff sought damages and declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining Defendants from "continuing to violate federal and Florida law relative to the unlawful treatment of a consumer's [NTIA] and the imposition and collection of sales taxes." [Id. at 39].

On November 28, 2017, all Defendants jointly filed their Motion for Summary Judgment ("Joint Motion"). [ECF No. 109]. On October 19, 2018, the Court affirmed and adopted Judge Louis' Report and Recommendation (the "Report") [ECF No. 190] granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Joint Motion, leaving only Counts 1-4 against remaining Defendant, Porsche Financial Services, Inc. [ECF No. 202].

On August 1, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Motion") on two issues8: (1) whether Florida law permits private parties to pursue civil penalties under FDUTPA and (2) whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's claims. [ECF No. 225]. On August 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed his Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Motion"), arguing that summary judgment is warranted in his favor as to (1) all elements of his FDUTPA claim under Count 49, (2) Defendant's affirmative defense under Florida Statute § 213.756, and (3) Defendant's affirmative defense under the voluntary payment doctrine. [ECF No. 241].

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), "is appropriate only if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). An issue is "genuine" when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the nonmoving party in light of his burden of proof. Harrison v. Culliver, 746 F.3d 1288, 1298 (11th Cir. 2014). And a fact is "material" if, "under the applicable substantive law, it might affect the outcome of the case." Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004). "Where the material facts are undisputed and all that remains are questions of law, summary judgment may be granted." Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 818 F.3d 1122, 1138 (11th Cir. 2016).

The Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. SEC v. Monterosso, 756 F.3d 1326, 1333 (11th Cir. 2014). However, to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, "the nonmoving party must offer more than a mere scintilla of evidence for its position; indeed, the nonmoving party must make a showing sufficient to permit the jury to reasonably find on its be-half." Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan Univ., 780 F.3d 1039, 1050 (11th Cir. 2015). Further, conclusory and uncorroborated allegations by a party in an affidavit or deposition will not create an issue of fact for trial sufficientto defeat a well-supported summary judgment motion. See Earley v. Champion Intern. Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1081 (11th Cir. 1990). "A district court's disposition of cross-motions for summary judgment employs the same legal standards applied when only one party files a motion." Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London Subscribing to Policy No. SA 10092-11581 v. Waveblast Watersports, Inc., 80 F. Supp. 3d 1311, 1316 (S.D. Fla. 2015) (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION
A. Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's claims. Defendant's first argument that the Court lacks jurisdiction based on the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341, fails. The Tax Injunction Act bars the exercise of federal jurisdiction when two conditions are met: "(1) the relief requested by the plaintiff will enjoin, suspend, or restrain a state tax assessment and (2) the state affords the plaintiff a plain, speedy and efficient remedy." Terry v. Crawford, 615 F. App'x 629, 630 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation...

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