Griffin v. Bldg. Materials Corp. of Am. (In re Bldg. Materials Corp. of Am. Asphalt Roofing Shingle Prods. Liab. Litig.), MDL No.: 8:11-mn-02000-JMC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Decision Date27 March 2013
Docket NumberMDL No.: 8:11-mn-02000-JMC,Civil Action No.: 8:12-cv-00082-JMC
PartiesIn re: Building Materials Corporation of America Asphalt Roofing Shingle Products Liability Litigation, Tina Griffin, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. Building Materials Corporation of America, dba GAF Materials Corporation, Defendant.

This matter is before the court on Defendant Building Materials Corporation of America, doing business as GAF Materials Corporation's ("GAF"), Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted [Dkt. No. 22]. Extensive memoranda in support of and in opposition to this motion have been filed by the parties. Having considered the written arguments of the parties and the record before the court, GAF's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


GAF is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Wayne, New Jersey. It manufactures roofing materials, including asphalt roofing shingles marketed under the Timberline® brand name, in facilities located across the United States and sells these shingles nationwide. Plaintiff Tina Griffin ("Griffin") is a homeowner in Bellingham, Massachusetts,who owns a home roofed with Timberline Ultra shingles. Griffin does not specify when she purchased the shingles, but her complaint alleges that she "did not discover that her GAF shingles were cracked and cracking until 2007, less than 12 years after installation." Amended Complaint, at ¶128 [Dkt. No. 17]. Griffin further alleges that she filed a warranty claim, which GAF accepted. However, GAF disputes having any record of the warranty claim. In purchasing the shingles, Griffin contends that she relied on certain representations made by GAF and its agents including, but not limited to, promotional statements marketing the shingles as having superior durability qualities and expressly warranting on the shingle packaging that the product complied with ASTM International ("ASTM") industrial standard D3462. She further alleges that the shingles installed on her roof were manufactured and sold to her with a latent defect that causes the shingles to prematurely crack, of which GAF was aware but intentionally failed to disclose to Griffin and other consumers. Griffin brings this putative class action against GAF asserting claims for breach of express and implied warranties (counts I and II); negligence and negligent failure to instruct or to warn (counts III and IV) (together, the Tort Claims); violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("NJCFA") (count V); violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") (count VI);1 unjust enrichment (Count VII); declaratory and injunctive relief (count VIII); and fraudulent concealment/equitable tolling (count IX); arising from GAF's sale of the allegedly defective roofing shingles.

Standard of Review

To survive a motion to dismiss, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that acomplaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Although Rule 8(a) does not require "detailed factual allegations," it requires "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007)), in order to "give the defendant fair notice . . . of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). Stated otherwise, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint alleging facts that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (quotation marks omitted).

In evaluating a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pled allegations are taken as true, and the complaint, including all reasonable inferences therefrom, is liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor. McNair v. Lend Lease Trucks, Inc., 95 F.3d 325, 327 (4th Cir. 1996). The court may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, which may include any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint, and matters of which the court may take judicial notice. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). Although the court must accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, any conclusory allegations are not entitled to an assumption of truth, and even those allegations pled with factual support need only be accepted to the extent that "they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

Choice of Law

"This case is predicated on diversity jurisdiction and was filed in federal court, so it is governed by state substantive law and federal procedural law. For diversity cases that are transferred in a [multi-district litigation], the law of the transferor district follows the case to the transferee district." In re MI Windows and Doors, Inc. Prod. Liab. Litig., Nos. 2:12-mn-00001, 2:12-cv-01256-DCN, 2012 WL 4846987, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 11, 2012) (citing Santa's Best Craft, LLC v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co, 611 F.3d 339, 345 (7th Cir. 2010) and Manual for Complex Litigation Fourth § 20.132). This case was originally filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Therefore, Massachusetts's choice-of-law rules apply in this case. See Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941); Colgan Air, Inc. v. Raytheon Aircraft Co., 507 F.3d 270, 275 (4th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); In re Neurontin Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 2011 WL 3852254 (D. Mass. Aug. 31, 2011). The court may appropriately undertake a choice of law analysis at the motion to dismiss stage. See Dean ex rel. Estate of Dean v. Raytheon Corp., 399 F. Supp. 2d 27, 33 (D. Mass. 2005) (granting defendant's motion to dismiss after conducting a choice-of-law analysis); Gonzalez v. Johnson, 918 N.E.2d 481 (Mass. App. Ct. 2009) (affirming lower court's decision to dismiss after it conducted a choice-of-law analysis).

Griffin has essentially conceded the applicability of Massachusetts law in all claims except the NJCFA claim as she primarily relies on law from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the United States District Court in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts state law throughout her response memorandum and only challenges the choice of law issue as it applies to the NJCFA claim. Accordingly, the court will focus its analysis of the choice of law issue on the NJCFA claim.

Statute of Limitations on Griffin's Warranty Claims

GAF contends that Griffin's warranty claims are barred because the statute of limitations expired before she commenced her action against GAF. GAF asserts that the Massachusetts four-year statue of limitations for breach of warranty in the sale of goods applies to this action. 2 See Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 106, § 2-725 (1).

A cause of action accrues when the breach occurs, regardless of the aggrieved party's lack of knowledge of the breach. A breach of warranty occurs when tender of delivery is made, except that where a warranty explicitly extends to future performance of the goods and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance the cause of action accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 106, § 2-725 (2).

The First Circuit Court of Appeals, interpreting § 2-275(2) has stated: "[t]o determine whether a warranty is one of future performance, we must look to the language of the warranty itself to determine whether it explicitly guarantees the future performance of the goods." Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 323 (1st Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original). Further, a warranty that includes a promise to repair "does not explicitly guarantee the future performance of the goods," but merely "warrants the future performance of the warrantor." Id. (citations omitted).

Griffin, relying solely on Plaintiffs' Omnibus Memorandum, vigorously argues that her warranty claims should survive because GAF's alleged marketing and advertising representations that the shingles would last a certain number of years was sufficient to constitute a warranty for future performance under Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 106, § 2-725 (2). However,Griffin's Amended Complaint does not allege that GAF specifically and expressly warranted the future performance of the shingles. Instead, the Smart Choice Warranty affixed to the shingle packaging simply provided for contribution to the repair or replacement of the shingles in the event the shingles manifested a defect or failed to perform within certain limitations over a specified number of years. See Smart Choice Warranty [Dkt. Nos. 22-7 - 22-17]. Therefore, the court does not find that Griffin has sufficiently pled factual allegations to support a claim that GAF extended a warranty for future performance.

However, Griffin additionally contends that her claim is still timely filed because the statute of limitations was equitably tolled by GAF's acts of fraudulent concealment. "Under the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, a plaintiff's fraud claims are tolled until the fraud is discovered." In re New England Mut. Life Ins. Co. Sales Practices Litig., 236 F. Supp. 2d 69, 78 (D. Mass....

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