Ocana v. Ford Motor Co.

Decision Date01 October 2008
Docket NumberNo. 3D07-82.,3D07-82.
Citation992 So.2d 319
PartiesRichard OCANA, Appellant, v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY, et al., Appellees.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals



We have for review the dismissal with prejudice of a complaint for breach of express and implied warranty, brought under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301-2312 (1976) (MMWA or the Act), by automotive vehicle lessee, Richard Ocana, against his leasing dealership, Warren Henry Automobiles, Inc., and the manufacturer, Ford Motor Company. The trial court dismissed the complaint against Warren Henry on the ground that Warren Henry did not extend an express written warranty to Ocana, and that Warren Henry properly had disclaimed all implied warranties. The court dismissed Ocana's express warranty claim against Ford Motor Company for failure of Ocana to state a cause of action, and the implied warranty claim on the ground of lack of privity under state law. Our study of the trial court order and the relevant law leads us to affirm the decision.


On August 3, 2005, Ocana entered into an agreement to lease a new 2006 Land Rover from Warren Henry for thirty-six months. The vehicle was delivered with a New Vehicle Limited Warranty from the manufacturer, Ford Motor Company. Subject to certain exclusions, the warranty covered the vehicle for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever came first. It entitled Ocana to repairs and part replacements to correct defects in materials or workmanship at no cost whenever he brought the vehicle to an authorized repair facility during the repair period.

The lease agreement contained no warranty. Instead, in Paragraph 12, the lease contained the following disclaimer:


If the vehicle is new, it is covered by the standard manufacturer's new vehicle warranty.... We assign to you all rights we have under any of these warranties. You acknowledge that you have received a copy of the indicated warranties.


One year after Ocana entered into the lease, he sued both Warren Henry and Ford. Ocana alleged he had returned the vehicle to the dealership for repairs at least four times. Although the reasons are not explained in the record—whether dealer request or lessee failure to return for the vehicle—the four sets of Warren Henry repair records attached by Ocana to the complaint reflect that the vehicle remained at the dealership for forty-two of the approximately 365 days between the date Ocana took possession and filing suit. On the other hand, there is no allegation in the complaint that Ford either refused to repair the vehicle or otherwise failed to adequately repair the vehicle under the warranty at any time. Instead, as told to us and to the trial court below, the gravamen of the complaint in this case is that "Ford Motor Company and Warren Henry Automobiles[,] Inc. breached their express and implied warranties [under the MMWA] by failing to repair the vehicle within a reasonable amount of time or reasonable number of repair attempts" within the meaning of section 2304 of the MMWA. The trial court concluded this focus of the complaint was insufficient to prosecute a MMWA claim for breach of a limited warranty, and, upon counsel's representation that he did not desire to amend his complaint on this or any other ground, dismissed the complaint with prejudice as to Ford. The dismissal of Warren Henry followed, albeit on different bases.

A. Ocana Has Failed to State a Cause of Action Against Ford Motor Company for Breach of Limited Express Warranty or Implied Warranty.
1. The Limited Express Warranty

The MMWA is designed principally to require certain disclosures with respect to written warranties to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices arising out of state Uniform Commercial Code warranties. The Act does not wholly supplant the state Uniform Commercial Code. See Mesa v. BMW of N. Am., LLC, 904 So.2d 450, 455 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005). Nor does the Act require a manufacturer or seller to extend a written warranty with its product. 15 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(2). However, if a manufacturer or seller does so, it must "conspicuously" label the warranty "full" or "limited." 15 U.S.C. § 2303(a)(1), (2). Apparently, the Congress believed that forcing all consumer product warranties (with insignificant exceptions) into one of these two categories would, over time, beget a fixed meaning for each in the minds of consumers, enabling them to make more intelligent decisions. See 1 James J. White & Robert S. Summers, Uniform Commercial Code § 9-19 (5th ed. 2000). Finally, the Act creates a federal private cause of action for consumers damaged by the failure of a warrantor to comply with any obligation under a written warranty. 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(1).

If a written warranty meets certain "Federal minimum standards," the Act requires that it be labeled "a full (statement of duration) ... warranty." 15 U.S.C. § 2303(a)(1). The Federal minimum standards require the following of warrantors:

(1) such warrantor must as a minimum remedy such consumer product within a reasonable time and without charge, in the case of a defect, malfunction, or failure to conform with such written warranty;

(2) [S]uch warrantor may not impose any limitation on the duration of any implied warranty on the product;

(3) such warrantor may not exclude or limit consequential damages for breach of any written or implied warranty on such product, unless such exclusion or limitation conspicuously appears on the face of the warranty; and

(4) if the product (or a component part thereof) contains a defect or malfunction after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy defects or malfunctions in such product, such warrantor must permit the consumer to elect either a refund for, or replacement without charge of, such product or part (as the case may be).

15 U.S.C. § 2304(a).

In contrast, the Act is virtually silent with respect to the imposition of requirements on manufacturers or sellers who issue a "limited" warranty. The only prescribed requirement is that such a warranty may not disclaim or limit the duration of an implied warranty to a period shorter than the duration of the express warranty. 15 U.S.C. § 2308(b). Therefore, the question whether a warrantor has committed a breach of a limited express warranty under the Act is governed by state law. Mesa, 904 So.2d at 455 ("With regard to warranties on consumer products the MMWA modifies the applicability and operation of the UCC and, to the extent applicable, supersedes inconsistent provisions of the UCC."); see also Walsh v. Ford Motor Co., 807 F.2d 1000, 1012 (D.C.Cir.1986) ("[E]xcept in the specific instances in which Magnuson-Moss expressly prescribes a regulating rule, the Act calls for the application of state written and implied warranty law, not the creation of additional federal law."); Razor v. Hyundai Motor Am., 222 Ill.2d 75, 305 Ill.Dec. 15, 854 N.E.2d 607, 614 (2006) ("The Act does supersede state law, but only to the extent that state law is inconsistent with the Act.").1 Under this state's law, there can be no cause of action for breach of an express limited warranty unless the consumer can allege and prove that the manufacturer did not comply with the limited express warranty's terms. See § 672.313, Fla. Stat. (2006); Chaurasia v. Gen. Motors Corp., 212 Ariz. 18, 126 P.3d 165, 169 (2007).

The limited express warranty before us provides that Ford will pay for repairs needed to correct defects in materials and workmanship: "[Ford2] warrants that during the warranty period, if a Land Rover vehicle is properly operated and maintained, repairs required to correct defects in factory-supplied materials or factory workmanship will be performed without charge upon presentment for service[.]" To recover for a breach of this warranty, a warrantee therefore must allege and prove that Ford refused or failed to adequately repair a covered item. Here, Ocana alleged only that "PLAINTIFF has taken the VEHICLE to the MANUFACTURER'S seller/agent on at least four (4) separate occasions." There is no allegation Ford did not comply with a provision of the express warranty. See Chaurasia, 126 P.3d at 169.

Rather than follow this more traditional pleading pathway, Ocana elected to seek to impose liability on Ford in this case by legally engrafting the Federal minimum standards applicable to "full (statement of duration) ... warrant[ies]" found in section 2304(a) of the MMWA, see supra p. 5, onto all written warranties. In particular, Ocana sought below and reiterates here that he seeks to proceed on the basis of section 2304(a)(4), the so-called "reasonable number of repair attempts provision," which states that:

if the product ... contains a defect or malfunction after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy defects or malfunctions in such product, such warrantor must permit the consumer to elect either a refund for, or replacement without charge of, such product or part (as the case may be).

15 U.S.C. § 2304(a)(4). In support of this position, Ocana employs the plain language of the Act, and two cases issued by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Rentas v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 936 So.2d 747 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006), and Gates v. Chrysler...

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