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Godawa v. Dixie Camper Sales of S.C., Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

June 3, 2016

Kenneth E. Godawa and Patricia A. Godawa, Plaintiffs,
v.
Dixie Camper Sales of S.C., Inc., EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC, and Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry M. Herlong, Jr., Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc.’s (“Lippert") motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiffs Kenneth E. Godawa and Patricia A. Godawa’s (collectively, “the Godawas") motion to remand. After a thorough review, the court denies the Godawas’ motion to remand and grants Lippert’s motion to dismiss.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of an allegedly defective travel trailer purchased by the Godawas from Defendant Dixie Camper Sales of S.C., Inc. (“Dixie") on or about May 25, 2012. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1-1.) The Godawas allege that Defendant Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC (“EverGreen") manufactured the travel trailer, and that Lippert designed, manufactured, and supplied a malfunctioning component of the travel trailer. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 24, ECF No. 1-1.) The alleged defective component is the slide mechanism, responsible for expanding the travel trailer for additional living quarters. (Id. ¶ 9, ECF No. 1-1; Pl. Mem. Opp’n Mot. Dismiss 2, ECF No. 13.) While the Godawas plead six causes of action against the Defendants collectively, the four specific causes of action against Lippert are: (1) breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-314; (2) breach of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-315; (3) a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA"), pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.; and (4) negligence. (Am. Compl., generally, ECF No. 1-1.)

         The Godawas filed their first amended complaint on March 9, 2016, in the Greenville County, South Carolina, Court of Common Pleas. (Id., ECF No. 1-1.) This action was removed by Lippert on April 8, 2016. (Not. Rem. Ex. 1 (Am. Compl.), ECF No. 1-1.) On April 15, 2016, Lippert filed the instant motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. (Def. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 8.) On April 22, 2016, the Godawas filed the instant motion to remand. (Pl. Mot. Remand, ECF No. 11.) The Godawas responded in opposition to the motion to dismiss on April 29, 2016. (Pl. Resp. Opp’n Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 13.) On May 9, 2016, Lippert replied. (Def. Reply Supp. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 15.) Lippert also responded in opposition to the motion to remand on May 20, 2016. (Def. Resp. Opp’n Mot. Remand, ECF No. 21.) This matter is now ripe for consideration.

         II. Discussion of the Law

         A. Motion to Remand

Generally, “[a] defendant may remove any action from a state court to a federal court if the action could have originally been brought in federal court." Yarnevic v. Brink’s, Inc., 102 F.3d 753, 754 (4th Cir. 1996) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441). The MMWA creates a federal private cause of action under certain circumstances. See 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(1). A non-class action claim under the MMWA may be brought in federal court if the amount in controversy is at least “$50, 000 (exclusive of interests and costs) computed on the basis of all claims to be determined in [the] suit." 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(3). “The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is placed upon the party seeking removal." Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). The Fourth Circuit has declined to adopt a precise standard on a motion to remand for determining the value of unspecified damages claims. Rota v. Consol. Coal Co., No. 98-1807, 1999 WL 183873, at *1 n.4 (4th Cir. Apr. 5, 1999) (unpublished).

         The critical inquiry on the instant motion to remand is whether the amount in controversy threshold has been met.[1] The Godawas allege they have sustained or will sustain the following damages:

(a) the travel trailer has been rendered unusable and substantially impaired its value to Plaintiffs and as a whole [sic]; (b) Plaintiffs have lost the value of the trailer and it has essentially been rendered a total loss as well as loss of use of the camper; (c) Plaintiffs have lost camping deposits; (d) Plaintiffs have incurred out of pocket expenses; (e) Attorneys fees and costs allowed by statute; and (f) in such other and further ways as discovery and trial may prove.

(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 45, ECF No. 1-1.) The Godawas listed only one specific damages amount in the complaint, $44, 759.00, which is the total purchase price of the travel trailer that the Godawas are seeking to fully recover. (Id. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1-1; Pl. Mot. Remand ¶ 6, ECF No.11.) However, the Godawas further allege damages for the lost use of their travel trailer for a three-year period, (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-23, ECF No. 1-1), and out-of-pocket expenses including: (1) four alleged repair attempts (Id. ¶¶ 8-10, 14, 17, 21, ECF No. 1-1); “mileage going to and from EverGreen for repairs" and to and from Concord, North Carolina for repairs (Id. ¶¶ 21, 54, ECF No. 1-1); and expenses occurred while stranded at a campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, including engaging a repair team (Id. ¶ 20, ECF No. 1-1). The court finds that Lippert has established its burden of showing that the Godawas have a claim exceeding the amount in controversy threshold under the MMWA. Based on the foregoing, the court denies the Godawa’s motion to remand. The court now turns to Lippert’s motion to dismiss.

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a cause of action if the opposing party fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must restrict its inquiry to the sufficiency of the complaint rather than “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of North Carolina v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “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)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         1. Breach of ...


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