In re Takata Airbag Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2599

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
Citation396 F.Supp.3d 1101
Decision Date20 June 2019
Docket NumberMDL No. 2599,Master File No. 15-02599-MD-MORENO,Economic Loss No. 14-24009-CV-MORENO
Parties IN RE: TAKATA AIRBAG PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION This Document Relates to All Economic Loss Track Cases







ANALYSIS ...1118

I. STANDING ...1118
B. "Injury in Fact"...1119
1. Mercedes and Volkswagen...1119
a) Manifestation of Defect...1119
b) Economic Injury...1121
2. General Motors...1122
a) Manifestation of Defect...1122
b) Economic Injury...1124
C. "Fairly Traceable"...1125
1. Volkswagen Sub-Class Claims and Audi Sub-Class Claims...1125
2. Remaining "Fairly Traceable" Arguments...1127
a) The Takata Plea Agreement...1127
(1) Request for Judicial Notice...1127
(2) Plaintiffs' "Fairly Traceable" Allegations...1129
b) The Takata Letters...1131
III. RICO ...1158
A. "Pattern of Racketeering Activity"Section 1962(c)...1158
B. "Conspiracy to Violate RICO"Section 1962(d)...1164

This multidistrict litigation ("MDL") consolidates allegations of economic loss and personal injury related to airbags manufactured by defendants Takata Corporation and TK Holdings (collectively, "Takata") and equipped in vehicles manufactured by Defendants FCA US LLC ("FCA"), General Motors Company, General Motors Holdings LLC, General Motors LLC (collectively, "General Motors"), Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (collectively, "Mercedes"), Audi Aktiengesellschaft, Audi of America, LLC (collectively, "Audi"), Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (collectively, with Audi, "Volkswagen") (all automotive manufacturers collectively, "Defendants"). While the Court divided the MDL's component cases into two tracks—economic loss for plaintiffs alleging purely economic damages and personal injury for plaintiffs alleging damages to a person—this Order pertains only to economic loss cases.

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant FCA's Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 2983 ), Defendant General Motors's Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 2981 ), Defendants Mercedes's and Volkswagen's Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 2988 ), and Defendant Mercedes's Separate Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing (D.E. 2982 ). Individually, the Motions seek to dismiss all claims alleged in three separate Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaints: Boyd v. FCA US LLC ("Boyd ") (D.E. 2758 ); Whitaker v. General Motors Company, et al. ("Whitaker ") (D.E. 2759 ); and Puhalla v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, et al.1 ("Puhalla ") (D.E. 2762 ) (collectively, the "Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaints").

THE COURT has thoroughly reviewed the Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaints, the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, the Plaintiffs' Omnibus Response in Opposition (D.E. 3034 ) (the "Omnibus Response" or "Opposition"), and the Defendants' Reply memoranda (D.E. 3094, 3098, 3103 ). The Court also heard oral argument from the parties on certain issues raised in the moving papers. (See D.E. 3139 ). This Order pertains only to standing, personal jurisdiction, and the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"). The Court reserves ruling on all other claims not discussed (including all claims advanced by the Automotive Recycler Plaintiffs). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.


Plaintiffs are consumers of Defendants' vehicles that are equipped with Takata airbags containing the propellant ammonium nitrate. Plaintiffs allege ammonium nitrate is an innately volatile and unstable propellant that imposes an unreasonable risk of serious foreseeable harm or death upon drivers of Defendants' vehicles. The crux of Plaintiffs' legal claims is that Defendants knew or should have known of these defects prior to installing the Takata airbags in their vehicles, and that Defendants concealed from, or failed to notify, the Plaintiffs and the general public of the full and complete nature of the defect, despite being aware of problems arising during the design and testing process, and through various rupture incidents and recalls. The Defendants vigorously contest both the constitutional bases for this Court to exercise jurisdiction, and the sufficiency of the allegations supporting Plaintiffs' substantive legal claims.


"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain ... a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ "

Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but a pleading must offer more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

Where a cause of action sounds in fraud, however, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) must be satisfied in addition to the more relaxed standard of Rule 8. Under Rule 9(b), "a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake," although "conditions of a person's mind," such as malice, intent, and knowledge may be alleged generally. Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). "The ‘particularity’ requirement serves an important purpose in fraud actions by alerting defendants to the ‘precise misconduct with which they are charged’ and protecting defendants ‘against spurious charges of immoral and fraudulent behavior.’ " W. Coast Roofing & Waterproofing, Inc. v. Johns Manville, Inc. , 287 F. App'x 81, 86 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Ziemba v. Cascade Intern., Inc. , 256 F.3d 1194, 1202 (11th Cir. 2001) ).


Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaints in their entirety on several justiciability grounds, and on grounds that Plaintiffs fail to adequately plead their substantive legal claims. This Order addresses: (1) the standing challenges brought by Mercedes, Volkswagen, and General Motors; (2) all the Defendants' personal jurisdiction attacks; and (3) all the Defendants' objections to the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' RICO claims. The Court will also address preemption and primary jurisdiction challenges made by Mercedes and Volkswagen, and the background issue of pendent personal jurisdiction. The Court will begin by deciding the extensively briefed standing and personal jurisdiction issues, and then proceed to rule on the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' RICO allegations. Then the Court will conclude by resolving the parties' pendent personal jurisdiction dispute.


Mercedes and Volkswagen, and separately General Motors, move to dismiss in full on standing grounds the Puhalla and Whitaker Complaints. Mercedes and Volkswagen argue Plaintiffs fail to sufficiently plead the "injury in fact" and "fairly traceable" elements of the standing test established by the United States Supreme Court in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). General Motors limits its standing challenge to the "injury in fact" element. These Defendants also ask the Court to judicially notice several pieces of extrinsic evidence. For instance, Mercedes asks the Court to judicially notice the Takata Plea Agreement, and then conclude the Plaintiffs' alleged injuries are not "fairly traceable" to Mercedes's conduct because Takata pleaded guilty to defrauding several auto manufacturers. General Motors asks the Court to judicially notice three "Petitions for Inconsequentiality" that General Motors filed with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), and then conclude Plaintiffs have not suffered an "injury in fact" because the alleged airbag inflator defects have not manifested in certain models of General Motors vehicles. In their Omnibus Response, Plaintiffs assert they have more than adequately alleged standing, and characterize Defendants' Motions as an attempt to relitigate prior rulings based upon selectively chosen, and heavily disputed, extrinsic evidence.


Article III of the United States Constitution limits federal court jurisdiction to actual cases and controversies. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. "The standing doctrine is an aspect of this case or controversy requirement, and has its origins in ‘both constitutional limitations on federal-court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise.’ " Cone Corp. v. Fla. Dep't of Trans. , 921 F.2d 1190, 1204 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing...

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