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Baar v. Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 9, 2016

BRIAN BAAR, Plaintiff,
v.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER NORTH AMERICA, LLC, and JAGUAR LAND ROVER LIMITED, Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Brian Baar brings this class action against Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC (“JLRNA”) and Jaguar Land Rover Limited (“JLRL”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, various state antitrust and consumer protection laws and unjust enrichment, in connection with the imposition of Defendants' no-export policy at the point of sale of Defendants' products. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED and Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a California resident who purchased one of Defendants' products, a 2015 Range Rover, from a dealership in Carlsbad, California on April 1, 2015. First Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶ 25, ECF No. 25. JLRNA is a Delaware company with its principal place of business in Mahwah, New Jersey. Id. ¶ 26. JLRL is the parent company of JLRNA and is incorporated under the laws of England and Wales, with its principal place of business in the United Kingdom. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. JLRL designs, develops and manufactures luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (“SUVs”), which it sells in the United States through JLRNA. JLRL also sells its products all over the world. Id. This dispute centers on a significant price differential of Defendants' products in foreign countries such as China. The following facts alleged in the Complaint are not in dispute.

         Apparently, demand for luxury vehicles in certain foreign countries commands a sale price of Defendants' products three or four times greater than the price in the United States. Id. ¶ 2. “[T]his price differential creates an arbitrage opportunity for Purchasers of JLR Vehicles in the United States who wish to have the ability to export them to foreign markets for resale at higher resale prices than in the United States.” Id. ¶ 3. To protect their profit margins in these foreign markets, Defendants implemented a “No-Export Policy” (the “Policy”) in April 2013. Id. The Policy requires that a purchaser agree to the following at the time of sale: “(i) [he or she has] no intention of exporting the JLR Vehicle outside the United States for up to one year from the date of delivery; (ii) if the JLR Vehicle is exported (even by subsequent purchasers), the Purchaser is subject to liquidated damages ranging from $25, 000 to $40, 000, losses and expenses; and (iii) the warranty will be voided if the JLR Vehicle is exported.” Id. ¶ 5.

         Defendants required Plaintiff to sign “the No-Export Agreement” (the “Agreement”) when he purchased his Range Rover. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff maintains that he “would have freely re-sold [sic] the JLR Vehicle for export within one year of delivery absent the No-Export Agreement.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that the Agreement is non-negotiable and that every purchaser must sign it “at the end of the transaction process, after agreeing upon all financial terms of the transaction.” Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants require their United States dealers to undertake certain actions of due diligence to enforce the Policy. Such actions include searching the vehicle purchase history of prospective purchasers, validating their addresses, searching for publicly available information on the internet, and determining the source of funds used to make the purchases. Id. ¶ 38.

         Plaintiff alleges a conspiracy among Defendants, their dealers, and a third-party consulting company to violate the Sherman Act and unreasonably restrain trade through the enforcement of the Policy. See id. ¶¶ 48-58. Plaintiff claims, and Defendants do not deny, that the purpose and effect of the Policy “is to prevent Purchasers from taking advantage of an arbitrage opportunity that exists in foreign countries, such as China, to obtain and maintain higher profits abroad.” Id. ¶ 59. Plaintiff submits that the relevant market affected by the Policy “is the market for exporting JLR Vehicles for resale.” Id. ¶ 87. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts five causes of action:

(1) Count 1: declaratory relief under 15 U.S.C. § 1, id. ¶¶ 118-25;
(2) Count 2: injunctive relief under 15 U.S.C. § 1, id. ¶¶ 126-32;
(3) Count 3: violation of 24 state antitrust laws, id. ¶¶ 133-37;
(4) Count 4: violation of 26 state consumer protection laws, id. ¶¶ 138-47; and
(5) Count 5: unjust enrichment under 48 States' common law, id. ¶¶ 148-50.

         Defendants now move for dismissal of all claims. Defendants first argue that Plaintiff has failed to allege any concerted action to restrain trade between Defendants and other independent entities. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) 9-14, ECF No. 30. Defendants next argue Plaintiff's claims fail under a rule of reason analysis because Plaintiff fails to identify a cognizable relevant market and does not allege an antitrust injury incurred in the United States. See id. at 15-29. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue all state law claims other than his California claims and that his California antitrust claims fail for the same reasons as his federal antitrust claims. See id. at 29-31. Defendants further argue that Plaintiff's claim under the California Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) fails because he failed to allege fraudulent, unlawful or unfair conduct. See id. at 31-35. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim fails because this Court previously determined that California does not recognize such claims. See id. 35-36.

         Plaintiff counters, arguing first that the Court should reject Defendants' arguments on the merits because such arguments require the development of a factual record and are inappropriate at the dismissal phase of litigation. See Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. (“Pl.'s Opp'n) 8-10, ECF No. 31. Plaintiff next submits that he properly pleaded the existence of concerted action between Defendants, their dealers and the consulting company, as required by the Sherman Act. See id. at 11-16. Plaintiff contends that the Policy unreasonably restrains trade under both the per se and rule of reason analyses. Plaintiff argues that the Policy “reduces output by restraining U.S. sales of JLR Vehicles” and the relevant market is “the U.S. market for exporting JLR Vehicles for resale, ” in which Defendants “have market power.” See id. at 17-26. Plaintiff submits that he properly alleged an antitrust injury through the restriction of Plaintiff's ability to export Defendants' products for resale. See id. at 26-28. Plaintiff further submits that a determination as to his standing to bring non-California based state law claims should be deferred until class certification. See id. 31-32. Finally, Plaintiff contends that he plausibly ...


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