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STRZAKOWLSKI v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION

August 16, 2005.

DIANE STRZAKOWLSKI, for herself and and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ, Senior District Judge

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant General Motors Corporation's motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Diane Strzakowlski ("Plaintiff") brought this action on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated. She filed the Complaint on August 18, 2004 in New Jersey Superior Court, Camden County. On September 28, 2004, Defendant General Motors Corporation ("GM") removed the case from Superior Court to this District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

  Plaintiff alleges that between 2000 and 2003, GM manufactured, marketed, and sold nationwide approximately four (4) million vehicles containing defective 3.8 liter V6 engines ("K Engine vehicles"),*fn1 including her 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. (Compl., ¶¶ 3; 7.) The alleged defect pertains to a part called the manifold-plenum, which, in K Engine vehicles, is made from plastic. (Compl., ¶¶ 21; 26.) Because of the high temperatures associated with the engine's internal combustion, Plaintiff claims that this part easily deforms and causes engine coolant leakage. (Compl., ¶¶ 22-24; 26.) This can result in a host of problems including engine overheating and operational failure. (Compl., ¶¶ 22-24; Def. Exh. B.)

  In July 2003, GM initiated a "Customer Satisfaction Program" ("CSP") to be implemented by its authorized service representatives. (Def. Exh. B; Compl., ¶ 25.) The CSP's ostensible purpose was to address the problems associated with K Engine vehicles' manifold-plenum. In a letter to K Engine vehicle owners and lessees, GM stated:
We have learned that your vehicle may develop an engine coolant leak at the upper intake manifold throttle body gasket, or at the lower intake to the upper intake gasket. This condition may result in a low engine coolant level and higher engine temperatures.
(Def. Exh. C.) The letter then indicated that owners and lessees should take their K Engine vehicles into their local GM dealerships for repair services any time through July 31, 2005. (Id.) It also offered to potentially compensate owners and lessees for repairs to the manifold-plenum that they independently undertook. (Id.) In September 2003, Plaintiff took her Chevrolet Monte Carlo to the dealership of purchase for repair pursuant to the CSP.*fn2 (Compl., ¶ 28.) Under the repair procedure outlined by GM, service technicians were to execute the repair by replacing three throttle body nuts and inserting coolant sealant pellets into the vehicle's radiator. (Def. Exh. B; Compl., ¶ 26.) However, this repair seemingly did not correct the manifold-plenum problem, at least as far as Plaintiff's vehicle was concerned. (Compl., ¶ 31.) In fact, Plaintiff experienced at least one incident of coolant leakage from her vehicle's intake manifold-plenum in June 2004.*fn3 (Id.)

  Plaintiff alleges that GM knew that its K Engine vehicles were critically defective even as they continued to manufacture and sell them to consumers. (Compl., ¶ 45.) Moreover, she claims that GM attempted to conceal this knowledge from the motoring public in order to protect its sales. (Id.) Further, Plaintiff alleges that even when it finally announced the problem in the July 2003 CSP notice letter, GM continued its attempted deception by deliberately crafting a repair procedure that would only mask visible signs of the defect rather than properly repair the underlying problem. (Compl., ¶¶ 26; 27.) The purpose of this alleged deception was to bide time until K Engine vehicles' warranties expired, thereby transferring the cost*fn4 of ultimate repair to consumers. (Compl., ¶ 27.)

  Based on these factual allegations, Count One of the Complaint asserts that GM breached its express warranty, which provides for free repair of any defects in materials or workmanship for a limited period. (Compl., ¶¶ 33-39.) Additionally, Count Two contends that GM's alleged deception and deliberately inadequate CSP repair procedure violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("CFA" or "the Act"), N.J. Stat. Ann. 56:8-1 to 20. (Compl., ¶¶ 40-51.) Plaintiff prays for relief in the form of: 1) an order certifying the plaintiff Class and appointing Plaintiff and her counsel to represent the Class; 2) actual damages for injuries suffered by Plaintiff and the Class as to the breach of warranty claim; 3) injunctive relief in the form of an order directing GM to properly repair the defective manifold-plenum; 4) damages pursuant to the CFA claim, including actual damages, treble damages, and costs of suit, including attorneys' fees; 5) statutory pre-judgment interest; and 6) any other relief deemed appropriate by the Court.

  On November 29, 2004, GM moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Several arguments in support of the motion are proffered. First, GM claims that Plaintiff's express warranty claim cannot stand because she did not provide adequate notice of the facts she claims to constitute breach. Second, GM argues that Plaintiff's CFA claim must fail because: 1) she did not allege any action or behavior on the part of GM that could constitute unlawful conduct in violation of the Act; and 2) she did not sufficiently allege that she suffered an ascertainable loss that was caused by GM's conduct. Third, GM asserts that even if the Court were to hold that Plaintiff had stated a claim on behalf of herself, her Complaint fails to state a claim on behalf of the proposed Class.*fn5 Therefore, it requests, at the very least, that the Court dismiss the Class allegations. This Court disagrees with GM's assertions and therefore will deny its motion.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Standard on Motion to Dismiss

  When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint, a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991); Rogin v. Bensalem Twp., 616 F.2d 680, 685 (3d Cir. 1980). A court may not dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) (citations omitted); see also D.P. Enters., Inc. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

  It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, a complaint need not spell out the theory of liability under which the plaintiff hopes to recover. See Evans Prods. Co. v. West Am. Ins. Co., 736 F.2d 920, 923 (3d Cir. 1984). It is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 561 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings `give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n. 3 (1984) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47).

  Finally, a court reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must only consider the facts alleged in the pleadings, the documents attached thereto as exhibits, and matters of judicial notice. Southern Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Kwong Shipping Group Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999); Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). B. Failure to State a Claim For Breach of Express Warranty

  GM contends that Plaintiff fails to state a claim as to the breach of warranty issue because she did not provide GM with sufficient notice of the alleged breach.

  New Jersey Statutes § 12A:2-607(3)(a) contains the Uniform Commercial Code's ("UCC") notice requirement for an express warranty claim. It provides:
Where a tender has been accepted the buyer must within a reasonable time after he discovers or should have discovered any breach notify the seller ...

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