In re Subaru Battery Drain Prods. Liab. Litig., Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-03095-JHR-JS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtHon. Joseph H. Rodriguez, USDJ
PartiesIn re Subaru Battery Drain Products Liability Litigation
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:20-cv-03095-JHR-JS
Decision Date31 March 2021

In re Subaru Battery Drain Products Liability Litigation

Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-03095-JHR-JS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

March 31, 2021


Opinion

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss or for a More Definite Statement filed by Defendants Subaru of America, Inc. ("SOA") and Subaru Corporation ("SBR") (collectively "Defendants") [Dkt. 34] in the above-referenced case, and the opposition thereto filed by Plaintiffs Amy Burd, Walter Gill, David Hansel, Glen McCartney, Roger Baladi, Tamara O'Shaughnessy, Anthony Franke, Matthew Miller, Steven Stone, Howard Bulgatz, Mary Beck, David Davis, and Colin George (collectively "Plaintiffs") individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated (the "Class"). [Dkt. 38]. The Court has reached the following conclusions:

1. Defendants' motion to preclude Plaintiffs from seeking remedies for Subaru Forester and 2020 Subaru Legacy vehicles for lack of standing is GRANTED;

2. Defendants' motion to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' express warranty claims against SBR (Counts II-IV) is GRANTED;

3. Defendants' motion to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' express warranty claims (Counts II-IV) for improperly alleging a design defect is DENIED;

4. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Gill and George's common-law express warranty claims for failure to present their vehicles for repair is hereby GRANTED (Count II);

5. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Burd, Baladi, Miller and Stone's common-law express warranty claims (Count II) for inadequate opportunity to repair is GRANTED;

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6. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Hansel, O'Shaughnessy, and Davis's common-law express warranty claims (Count II) for failure to allege continued defects is GRANTED;

7. Defendants' motion to dismiss common-law express warranty claims (Count II) for lack of pre-suit notice is DENIED as to Plaintiffs Beck (Michigan) and Davis (Texas), and GRANTED as to Plaintiff Bulgatz (Illinois);

8. Defendants' motion to dismiss common-law implied warranty claims (Count I) for lack of privity is DENIED as to California Plaintiffs Franke and Miller, Florida Plaintiff Stone, New York Plaintiffs Baladi, McCartney, and O'Shaughnessy, and GRANTED as to Illinois Plaintiff Bulgatz;

9. Defendants' motion to dismiss common-law implied warranty claims (Count I) as untimely is DENIED as to Plaintiff George and GRANTED as to Plaintiff Franke;

10. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (Count III) claims for lack of standing is GRANTED;

11. Defendants' motion to dismiss express warranty claims under the Song-Beverly Act (Count IV) is GRANTED as to Plaintiff Miller, and DENIED as to Plaintiff Franke;

12. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff Miller's implied warranty claim under the Song-Beverly Act (Count V) as untimely is DENIED;

13. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' common-law and statutory fraud claims is GRANTED to the extent Plaintiffs have alleged affirmative fraudulent misrepresentations;

14. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' statutory fraud and fraudulent concealment claims for lack of knowledge is DENIED;

15. Defendants' motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' fraud claims as to SBR for lack of duty is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (Count VI), Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Count X), and common-law fraudulent concealment under New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and Florida law (Count XV), but is otherwise DENIED;

16. Defendants' motion to dismiss claims under Sections 349 and 350 of the New York General Business Law (Counts XII and XIII) for failure to plead deceptive practices in New York is DENIED as to Plaintiffs Baladi and O'Shaughnessy, but GRANTED as to Plaintiff McCartney;

17. Defendants' motion to dismiss claims under Section 350 of the New York General Business Law (Count XIII) as to Plaintiffs Baladi and O'Shaughnessy is

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DENIED;

18. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff Bulgatz's Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act claim (Count X) for "unfair" conduct is GRANTED;

19. Plaintiff Beck's Michigan Consumer Protection Act claim (Count XI) is DISMISSED;

20. Defendants' motion to limit remedies available to Plaintiffs Miller and Franke under the California Unfair Competition Law (Count VIII) to restitution and injunctive relief is GRANTED;

21. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' California Unfair Competition Law claims (Count VIII) for failing to plead traceability is DENIED;

22. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff Franke's claim under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Count VI) as untimely is GRANTED;

23. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Franke and Miller's claims for equitable relief under the California Unfair Competition Law (Count VIII) and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Count VI) as duplicative of legal remedies is GRANTED as to Count VI and denied as to Count VIII;

24. Defendants' motion to dismiss the fraudulent concealment claims (Count XV) of New Jersey, California, Florida, and Illinois plaintiffs is GRANTED;

25. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff Davis's (Texas) fraudulent concealment claim (Count XV) is GRANTED;

26. Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim for unjust enrichment (Count XVI) is GRANTED;

27. Defendants' motion to preclude Plaintiffs from enjoining Defendants from falsely advertising their vehicles is GRANTED;

28. Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) is DENIED; and

29. Defendants' motion for a more definite statement is DENIED.

I. Background

Defendant Subaru Corporation is a Japanese corporation with a principal place of business in Tokyo, Japan that is engaged in the business of designing and manufacturing Subaru automobiles

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worldwide. [Consol. Compl., Dkt. 18 at ¶ 23].1 Defendant Subaru of America, Inc. ("SOA") is a wholly owned subsidiary of Subaru Corporation with a principal place of business in Camden, New Jersey. [Id. ¶ 24]. SOA "distributes, advertises, markets, sells, warrants, and services Subaru vehicles in the United States." [Id.].

As described in detail below Plaintiffs are thirteen individuals who purchased Subaru vehicles between 2015 and 2019. [Id. ¶¶ 10-22, 30 40, 47, 54, 60, 68, 75, 82, 89, 97, 109, 115]. Plaintiffs bring this putative class action "individually and on behalf of all current and former owners and lessees of the following model year ("MY") Subaru vehicles: MY 2015-2020 Outback, MY 2015-2020 Forester, MY 2015-2020 Legacy, MY 2015-2020 WRX, and MY 2019-2020 Ascent (the "Class Vehicles")." Plaintiffs allege that the Class Vehicles suffer from a common defect which causes the vehicles' batteries to drain quickly and which renders their vehicles inoperable. [Id. ¶¶ 123-36]. Each of the Subaru vehicles at issue here contains the same electrical system called a Controller Area Network ("CAN"), through which the vehicles' "components like electronic units, microcontrollers, devices, sensors and actuators communicate..." [Id. ¶¶ 125, 127, 130]. "When the vehicle is in use, the CAN system in the Class Vehicles relies on electrical current so that the vehicle can be operated as intended. When the vehicle is not being operated, the CAN system should enter a sleep mode in which it stops drawing significant electrical current." [Id. ¶ 133]. However, the CANs in the class vehicles do not enter sleep mode when the vehicle turns off, resulting in "parasitic battery drain." [Id. ¶¶ 124, 134]. Causes of this parasitic battery drain include "software errors." [Id. ¶ 134]. The Court will refer to this defect as the "Battery Defect."

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Due to the nature of the Battery Defect, Plaintiffs claim that replacing batteries in the Class Vehicles does not ensure that users can operate their cars. [Id. ¶ 143]. Plaintiffs also allege that "[v]ehicle batteries are not designed to be continually drained down to low volumes of power.... The Defect therefore makes it necessary to replace the battery in Class Vehicles far more often than is typical with other, non-defective vehicles. [Id ¶ 170]. Owners must replace their batteries frequently as a result.

SOA provided a New Vehicle Limited Warranty (the "Limited Warranty") for each class vehicle that lasts for three years or 36,000 miles. [Id. ¶ 140; see also Dkt. 34-2 at 7]. The Limited Warranty covers "any repairs needed to correct defects in material or workmanship reported during the applicable warranty period and which occur under normal use." [Id.]. The Limited Warranty provides that covered defects "will be repaired without charge" by authorized Subaru retailers. [Dkt. 34-2 at 10]. The Limited Warranty further states that

THESE WARRANTIES AND THE EMISSION RELATED WARRANTIES APPEARING ELSEWHERE IN THIS BOOKLET ARE THE ONLY EXPRESS WARRANTIES BY SOA ON THE VEHICLE AND ON GENUINE SUBARU OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES INSTALLED ON THE VEHICLE PRIOR TO DELIVERY.THESE WARRANTIES ARE LIMITED IN DURATION TO THE TIME PERIOD OF THE WRITTEN WARRANTIES. THESE WARRANTIES ARE IN LIEU OF ALL OTHER OBLIGATIONS, LIABILITIES OR WARRANTIES, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE END AT THE SAME TIME COVERAGE ON THE PARTICULAR COMPONENT ENDS. SOA, its Distributors, and Authorized SUBARU Retailers do not authorize any person to assume for any of them any obligations or liabilities greater than or different from those set forth in these warranties. Some states do not allow limitations on how long an implied warranty lasts, so the above limitations may not apply. These warranties give you specific legal rights and you may also have other rights under state law.

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[Id. (capitalization and emphasis in the original)].

The Limited Warranty contains an "Authorized Genuine Subaru Replacement Battery Warranty" (the "Battery Warranty") which states

Authorized Genuine Subaru Replacement Batteries are warranted by the 30-month/unlimited
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