United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants Honda North
America, Inc., American Honda Motor Co., Inc., and Honda
Motor Company, Ltd.'s (collectively, “Honda”)
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Joel Merkin's First Amended
Complaint (“FAC”) pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
(ECF No. 16). Plaintiff asserts the following claims: (1)
violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act; (2) breach of
express warranty; (3) breach of implied warranty of
merchantability; (4) common law fraud; (5) breach of the duty
of good faith and fair dealing; and (6) unjust enrichment.
For the reasons expressed herein, Honda's Motion to
Dismiss is granted.
putative class action, Plaintiff Joel Merkin alleges that
Honda failed to disclose alleged defects present in the
starter motor of certain Honda vehicles. Plaintiff, a New
Jersey citizen, seeks to certify a class of all New Jersey
owners or lessees of 2013-2015 model year Honda Accord and
Crosstour vehicles containing V6 engines (“Class
Vehicles”). (FAC at ¶¶ 1, 16, 72).
20, 2015, Plaintiff purchased a pre-owned 2013 Honda Accord,
purportedly within the New Vehicle Limited Warranty from a
Honda dealership in Toms River, New Jersey. (Id. at
¶¶ 7, 17). The limited warranty extended coverage
for the lesser of 3 years or 36, 000 miles. (Id. at
¶ 7). According to the FAC, in May 2016, with
approximately 40, 400 miles, Plaintiff began experiencing
issues starting his vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 19). At
least once or twice a week, Plaintiff's vehicle would not
start immediately and would require him to turn the ignition
“repeatedly” in order to start the engine.
(Id.). Two months later, with an additional 18, 000
miles, Plaintiff claims his vehicle would not start
approximately five to six times a day. (Id. at
¶ 20). When he brought this issue to Honda of Toms
River's attention, he was told that his vehicle was no
longer under warranty and that he would be charged the full
price for service and replacement of the defective starter
motor (“starter”), and was charged $200 for a
replacement. (Id. at ¶ 22).
alleges that Honda was aware of the starter defect, yet
failed to make proper disclosures. (Id. at ¶
2). Plaintiff alleges that the defect manifests during or
shortly after the expiration of the limited warranty period.
(Id.). As background, “[a] starter motor is an
electric motor that turns over or ‘cranks' the
vehicle's engine in order to start it”
(Id. at ¶ 39), and since the defective starters
prematurely fail, the vehicle will not start. (Id.
at ¶ 2).
February 2016, Honda issued a Technical Service Bulletin
(“TSB”) to Honda dealers, which addressed
“complaints of grinding or spinning noises at startup
in the Class Vehicles.” (Id. at ¶ 44).
According to Plaintiff, the TSB “acknowledged that the
Class Vehicles were manufactured with ‘not optimal'
clearance between the starter motor and the torque converter
ring gear.” (Id. at ¶ 45). Without proper
clearance, these starters experienced premature wear, thereby
causing significant damage, which required removal and
replacement with a new starter with corrected clearance.
(Id. at ¶¶ 45-47).
Honda was purportedly aware of the defect, it was never
disclosed to the general public. (Id. at ¶ 48).
Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that Honda actively concealed and
refused to acknowledge the defect. (Id. at
¶¶ 56-65). In support of this assertion, Plaintiff
relies generally on: “(1) [Honda's] own record of
customers' complaints, (2) dealership repair records, (3)
records from the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA), (4) warranty and post-warranty
claims, (5) internal presale durability testing and TSBs, and
(6) other various sources.” (Id. at ¶
56). Given Honda's quality assurance efforts, Plaintiff
claims “[Honda] knew or should have known that the
starter system in the Class Vehicles was defective” and
“expressly warranted the affected vehicles to be free
from defects for a period of 3 years or 36, 000 miles.”
(Id. at ¶¶ 65-66).
illustrate Honda's purported awareness of the defective
starters, Plaintiff cites to complaints made by Honda Accord
owners to the NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation
(ODI). ( Id. at ¶¶ 70). In a January 2014
complaint, a 2013 Honda Accord owner claimed, “Vehicle
does not start easily. 3-5 ignition attempts are needed to
start it every time. However, once it starts everything seems
fine. The battery was checked by the dealer and found to be
fine.” (Id.) (capitalization omitted). In a
similar entry, dated May 2014, another 2013 Honda Accord
owner stated, “Went to start the car, the car will not
turn on, everything works but the car won't start. Seems
to be a problem with the starter.” (Id.)
(capitalization omitted). According to the FAC, “[a]ll
automobile manufacturers routinely monitor and analyze NHTSA
complaints because this information is used [for] determining
if a recall should be issued.” (Id. at ¶
brings six causes of action based on state law, on behalf of
himself and the putative class. Specifically, he alleges
violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act
(“NJCFA”), N.J.S.A. § 56:8-2; breach of
express warranty; breach of implied warranty; breach of the
duty of good faith and fair dealing; and unjust enrichment.
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court is required to accept as
true all allegations in the Complaint and all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d
1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994). “To survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a
court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the
purposes of the motion, it will not accept bald assertions,
unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping
legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v.
Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the
well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a
claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium, 214 F.3d 395,
397-98 (3d Cir. 2000).
allegations sounding in fraud, Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b) imposes a
heightened pleading standard. “The purpose of Rule 9(b)
is to provide notice of the precise misconduct with which
defendants are charged in order to give them an opportunity
to respond meaningfully to a complaint, Aand to prevent false
or unsubstantiated charges.” Rolo v. City Investing
Co. Liquidating Trust, 155 F.3d 644, 658 (3d Cir. 1998)
(citations omitted). “Under Rule 9(b), when a plaintiff
is alleging fraud or mistake, he ‘must state with
particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or
mistake, ' though conditions of a person's mind, such
as knowledge or intent, may be alleged generally.”
Gotthelf v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 525
Fed.Appx. 94, 103 n.15 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
9(b)). However, “when pleading knowledge, the complaint
must still contain more than a ‘conclusory allegation,
' and the pleading must meet the ‘less rigid
-though still operative-strictures of Rule 8.'”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 686-87)).
Counts I and IV ...