Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

IN RE FORD MOTOR CO. IGNITION SWITCH PRODUCTS

March 1, 1999

IN RE FORD MOTOR COMPANY IGNITION SWITCH PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge.

OPINION

This matter is before the court on the motion of MDL plaintiffs James Atkins, Victoria Saxe and Jaquellyn C. Pope for leave to file an Amended Class Action Complaint, and on the motion of Atkins and Saxe for remand due to an alleged absence of Article III standing. Because Atkins and Saxe have not attempted to cure the pleading deficiencies that led the court to grant in part defendants' motion to dismiss the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint on September 30, 1997, the court denies the motion for leave to amend with respect to them and denies their motion for remand, which is predicated entirely on the court's acceptance of the proposed Amended Class Action Complaint. However, because Pope has partially cured the pleading deficiencies that led the court to dismiss the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint, the court grants in part and denies in part the motion for leave to amend with respect to her.

BACKGROUND

A. The Origins of this Multidistrict Litigation

This litigation involves one group of insurance subrogation cases*fn1 and two groups of putative consumer class action suits, in all of which the plaintiffs allege that defendant United Technologies Automotive, Inc. ("UTA") manufactured defective motor vehicle ignition switches that have a propensity to spontaneously catch fire, and that defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") manufactured and distributed automobiles, light trucks and utility vehicles of various models from 1985 to 1992 containing those defective ignition switches.

The instant motions do not involve the first group of putative class action plaintiffs in this litigation, namely, owners of Ford vehicles who seek to represent a nationwide class of people whose Ford vehicles have caught fire as a result of the allegedly defective ignition switch. The court refers to these plaintiffs as the "Snodgrass plaintiffs" because Teri Snodgrass is presently the lead plaintiff of this group, which is comprised of a consolidation of two separate actions originally filed in this court.*fn2

The instant motions were filed by some, but not all, of the second group of putative class action plaintiffs in this litigation, which is comprised primarily of owners of Ford vehicles who seek to represent a class of people whose Ford vehicles contain the allegedly defective ignition switch but have not caught fire.*fn3 One of these plaintiffs, Yvette Veideman, commenced her case in state court in New Jersey, from which it was removed to this court by the defendants. The MDL Panel subsequently transferred to this court all Ford/UTA consumer ignition switch cases that had been filed in or removed to federal courts around the country, including those of Atkins and Saxe.*fn4 As a group, the court refers to these plaintiffs as the "MDL plaintiffs."

B. The Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint

On July 19, 1996, MDL plaintiffs Veideman, Atkins, Saxe and Billy Davis filed a Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint in this court alleging the following causes of action: (1) violation of state consumer fraud statutes; (2) strict products liability; (3) breach of contract and express warranty; (4) fraudulent concealment; and (5) breach of implied warranty of merchantability. Thereafter, on November 21, 1996, Veideman, Atkins, Saxe, Davis and 115 other named individuals (including Pope) filed a Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint, in which they asserted a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq., in addition to the claims described above. The court refers to the 119 plaintiffs named in the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint as the "Veideman plaintiffs."*fn5 The instant motions were filed by three of the Veideman plaintiffs — Atkins, Saxe and Pope.

C. The Motion for Class Certification

The Veideman plaintiffs sought certification of a proposed class comprised of two subclasses. The first subclass ("Subclass A") was composed of "all Class members who currently own or lease Ford Vehicles that were not included in the safety recall in the United States announced by Ford on April 25, 1996." (Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint at ¶ 136.)*fn6 The second subclass ("Subclass B") was composed of "all Class members who currently own or lease Ford Vehicles that were included in the safety recall in the United States announced by Ford on April 25, 1996." (Id. at ¶ 137.)*fn7

The Veideman plaintiffs moved for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. In an Opinion and Order filed on August 28, 1997, the court denied the Veideman plaintiffs' motion for class certification. See In re Ford Motor Co. Ignition Switch Products Liability Litigation, 174 F.R.D. 332 (D.N.J. 1997). The court denied the motion for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2) because the Veideman plaintiffs were "unable to satisfy either the common question prong or the superiority prong of the rule." Id. at 341. The court identified the "principal reason for denying class certification" as "plaintiffs' failure to demonstrate a suitable and realistic plan for trial of the class claims which arise under the differing laws of fifty states." Id. at 342. The court also noted that certification of a nationwide class would require the court "to establish countless subclasses taking into account not only differences in state law but also in model years, thereby rendering this case unmanageable for disposition in a federal forum in a single case." Id. The court also denied the Veideman plaintiffs' motion for class certification under Rule 23(b)(1)(A), finding that there was "nothing in the record that indicates that prosecution of separate actions in this case would create a significant risk of inconsistent adjudications or establish inconsistent standards." Id. at 354.

D. The Motion to Dismiss

At about the same time the Veideman plaintiffs moved for class certification, Ford and UTA moved to dismiss the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In an Opinion and Order filed September 30, 1997, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint. Specifically, the court dismissed the claims of the Subclass B plaintiffs (owners of Ford vehicles that had been recalled) with prejudice because they did not assert any actual existing injury.*fn8 (See September 30, 1997 Opinion at 18-21.) With respect to the Subclass A plaintiffs (owners of Ford vehicles that had not been recalled),*fn9 the court ruled as follows:

1. The court dismissed all of the Magnuson-Moss Act claims asserted in the First Count without prejudice as to Ford and with prejudice as to UTA. (See id. at 64-68.)

2. The court dismissed all of the fraud claims asserted in the Second Count without prejudice as to both Ford and UTA for failure to plead fraud with particularity in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). (See id. at 53-54.)

3. The court dismissed all of the state law consumer fraud claims asserted in the Third Count without prejudice as to both Ford and UTA for failure to adequately plead detrimental reliance and damages. (See id. at 22-29.) The court also dismissed the claims brought by the California Subclass A plaintiffs (Atkins, Saxe and Pope) under Section 17200 of the California Business Code with prejudice, to the extent they sought to recover damages, because that section does not permit private litigants to seek damages for violations of the statute, and dismissed their claims under Section 1770 of the California Civil Code without prejudice for failure to plead that their vehicles were purchased for personal use. (See id. at 32-34).

4. The court dismissed all of the breach of contract and express warranty claims asserted against UTA in the Fourth Count with prejudice. (See id. at 36-38, 40.) The court denied Ford's motion to dismiss the breach of contract claims and Ford's motion to dismiss the breach of express warranty claims to the extent they were based on the written warranty that accompanies each Ford vehicle, but dismissed the breach of express warranty claims against Ford without prejudice to the extent they were based on promotional or advertising materials. (See id. at 36-38, 39, 40-42.) However, the court also dismissed all of the breach of express warranty claims of the New York (Marilyn Cordano), Mississippi (Davis) and California (Atkins, Saxe and Pope) Subclass A plaintiffs for failure to allege notice in accordance with Uniform Commercial Code § 2-607(3)(a), as enacted in each of those three states. (See id. at 42-43.) The court denied Ford's motion to dismiss the redhibition claims asserted by the Louisiana Subclass A plaintiffs. (See id. at 43-46.)

5. The court dismissed the strict products liability claims asserted by the New York (Cordano), Mississippi (Davis) and California (Atkins, Saxe and Pope) Subclass A plaintiffs in the Fifth Count with prejudice as to both Ford and UTA under the economic loss doctrine. (See id. at 46-51.) However, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the strict products liability claims of the Louisiana Subclass A plaintiffs under La. Rev. St. Ann. § 2800.54. (See id. at 51-52.)

6. The court dismissed all of the breach of implied warranty of merchantability claims asserted in the Sixth Count with prejudice as to both Ford and UTA except the redhibition claims of the Louisiana Subclass A plaintiffs against Ford. (See id. at 60-64.)

In sum, the only claims that Atkins, Saxe and Pope asserted in the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint that survived defendants' motion to dismiss completely unscathed were the claims for injunctive relief and/or restitution under Sections 17200 and 17500 of the California Business & Professions Code they asserted against Ford and UTA in the Third Count the breach of contract claims they asserted against Ford in the Fourth Count. The Section 17200 consumer fraud claims for damages they asserted in the Third Count, the strict products liability claims they asserted in the Fifth Count, and the breach of implied warranty of merchantability claims they asserted in the Sixth Count were dismissed with prejudice, as were the breach of contract and express warranty claims they asserted against UTA in the Fourth Count. The Magnuson-Moss Act claims they asserted in the First Count, the fraud claims they asserted in the Second Count, the Section 1770 consumer fraud claim they asserted in the Third Count, and the breach of express warranty claims they asserted against Ford in the Fourth Count were dismissed without prejudice.

E. The Window of Opportunity to Cure Pleading Defects

In the September 30, 1997 Opinion, the court invited the Veideman plaintiffs to attempt to cure the pleadings deficiencies of those claims that were dismissed without prejudice by filing a Consolidated Second Amended Class Action Complaint. (See id. at 68-69.) The court provided, however, that all claims that were dismissed without prejudice would be deemed dismissed with prejudice if the Consolidated Second Amended Class Action Complaint was not filed within thirty days of September 30, 1997 "or such other time as approved by the court." (See id.) The court also incorporated that directive into its September 30, 1997 Order.

F. The Subject Matter Jurisdiction Motion

The Veideman plaintiffs did not file a Consolidated Second Amended Class Action Complaint within thirty days of September 30, 1997. Instead, the Veideman plaintiffs filed a motion for a judgment of lack subject matter jurisdiction and for vacatur of the court's August 28, 1997 ruling denying their motion for class certification and the court's September 30, 1997 ruling granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to dismiss.*fn10

In an Opinion and Order filed on August 27, 1998, the court denied the Veideman plaintiffs' motion, finding that it had always had federal subject matter jurisdiction over the case and that it continued to do so. The court noted that it had diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 over the cases that were transferred to this court from other district courts at the time of the transfers, and that it also had federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 after the Veideman plaintiffs asserted their Magnuson-Moss Act claims in the Consolidated First Amended Class Action Complaint. (See August 27, 1998 Opinion at 12.) The court also noted that it had always had supplemental jurisdiction over the pendent state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), and that it continued to have supplemental jurisdiction to decide defendants' motions to dismiss those claims after it dismissed the Veideman plaintiffs' Magnuson-Moss Act claims on September 30, 1997. (See id. at 13.) The court specifically considered whether it should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Veideman plaintiffs' state law claims after dismissing the Magnuson-Moss Act claim over which it had original jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.