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Dibsie v. Gulf Stream Coach

May 28, 2008

GREGORY C. DIBSIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GULF STREAM COACH, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This case arises out of Plaintiff's allegations that the motor home he purchased from Defendant Spirit International, Inc. ("Spirit"), a motor vehicle dealership located in Swedesboro, New Jersey, was defective and that Defendants have not satisfactorily complied with their obligations to address those defects. Plaintiff originally filed this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, naming as Defendants Spirit, Gulf Stream Coach, Inc. ("Gulf Stream"), and General Motors Corp. ("GM"). Presently before the Court is Gulf Stream's motion to transfer venue, or, in the alternative, to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [Docket Item 13]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Gulf Stream's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

In January 2007, Plaintiff entered into negotiations with Spirit for the purchase of a Gulf Stream Ultra Super C Model W6341BK motor home, and on January 27, 2007, Plaintiff and Spirit signed an order form (the "Purchase Order") in which Plaintiff agreed to purchase the vehicle. (Pl.'s Opp'n Br. Ex. D.) Plaintiff paid a $500 deposit in connection with his January 27, 2007 order, and the parties anticipated that the vehicle would be delivered to Spirit's dealership in March 2007. (Id.) The Purchase Order contained an arbitration clause which provided that Plaintiff and Spirit

agree to arbitrate any claim, dispute or controversy . . . that may arise out of or relating to the purchase or lease identified in this . . . Order . . . . There are no limitations on the type of claims that must be arbitrated, except for New Car Lemon Law and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claims which are excluded from arbitration under this agreement . . . . The arbitration shall take place in New Jersey at the address of the dealership listed on the retail Order Form.

(Id.) The Purchase Order was signed by Plaintiff and Chet Bonar, an employee of Spirit. (Id.)

On March 22, 2007, Plaintiff returned to the Spirit dealership to complete his transaction. Before Plaintiff signed the final purchase agreement, Bonar directed Plaintiff to review and sign Gulf Stream's Motorized Limited Warranty (the "Warranty Agreement"). This document, which Plaintiff signed, contained a forum selection clause which provides that:

Exclusive Jurisdiction for deciding any claims, demands or causes of action for defects or representations of any nature or damages due from such defects or representations shall be in the courts in the State of Manufacture. The laws applicable to any litigation, dispute, arbitration or any claim whatsoever arising from the sale, purchase, or use of the recreational vehicle shall be those of the State of Manufacture. The State of Manufacture of the recreational vehicle is Indiana.

This Limited Warranty gives the Purchaser specific legal rights that may vary from state to state . . . . Some states may prohibit certain exclusions from express warranty coverage, and/or the exclusion of remedies and implied warranties . . . . Consult your personal attorney to determine all rights under the state and federal consumer laws, which may offer remedies in addition to or different from this Limited Warranty.

(Pl.'s Opp'n Br. Ex. E.) In addition to the Warranty Agreement, Plaintiff signed a purchase agreement (the "Purchase Agreement") with an identical arbitration clause as was contained in the previously signed Purchase Order, that is, providing for arbitration in New Jersey of claims against the dealership. (Id.)

According to Plaintiff, within a matter of months, Plaintiff's motor home developed a wide array of problems. According to Plaintiff, he had the vehicle serviced by Spirit two times, but the problems persisted. Plaintiff contacted Gulf Stream, which eventually directed Plaintiff to take the vehicle to Risco, Inc., an authorized Gulf Stream repair facility located in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Plaintiff brought the vehicle to Risco on October 24, 2007, where it remained "in various stages of repair and disassembly" for many months. (Pl.'s Opp'n Br. 9.) As Plaintiff represented to the Court at oral argument, he has regained possession of the vehicle, but it continues to exhibit many of the problems that he complained about before it was serviced at Risco.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Gloucester County, on November 26, 2007, naming Gulf Stream, Spirit, and General Motors Corporation ("GM") as defendants. Plaintiff's Complaint asserts eight Counts: a claim under the New Jersey Vehicle Warranty Act, N.J.S.A. 56:12-30 (Count I); breach of express warranty (Count II); breach of implied warranty (Count III); three claims under the Magnuson- Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq. (Counts IV-VI); breach of contract (Count VII); and a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 (Count VIII).

On December 5, 2007, Gulf Stream timely filed a Notice of Removal to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), asserting that the Court could exercise original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claims and ancillary jurisdiction over his state law claims. In its Notice of Removal, Gulf Stream stated that "[t]his court is one of proper venue pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(2) because subject vehicle was purchased in the State of New Jersey and Defendant Gulf Stream is authorized to do business in the State of New Jersey." (Docket Item 1 ¶ 8.) On February 13, 2008, Gulf Stream filed the motion to transfer and/or dismiss presently before the Court.

The Court convened a hearing to address Gulf Stream's motion on May 23, 2008, at which Gulf Stream and Plaintiff presented oral argument on the merits of Gulf ...


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