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In & Out Welders, Inc. v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.

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

May 23, 2017

IN & OUT WELDERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
SUNBELT RENTALS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a breach of contract putative class action. This is one of several putative class lawsuits filed against Defendant Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. (Defendant) across the United States. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the First Amended Class Action Complaint (Complaint) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Having reviewed the motion, the response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will deny Defendant's motion.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Court draws the relevant facts for purposes of this motion from the Complaint. Plaintiff In & Out Welders, Inc. (Plaintiff) is an Alabama corporation. Defendant is a North Carolina corporation with its principal place of business in South Carolina. Plaintiff has rented equipment from Defendant in at least sixteen states, including South Carolina.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant requires every customer seeking to rent equipment to enter into a standard, pre-printed rental contract. Plaintiff attached a blank form contract to the Complaint, which Plaintiff states contains identical relevant language for every transaction throughout the putative class period. This form contract establishes, in relevant part:

Customer is responsible for (i) all rental rates, fees, licenses, taxes and governmental charges based on Customer's use of the Equipment[;] (ii) delivery and pickup costs to and from the Store; [and] (vi) fuel used during the Rental Period (Customer may either return the Equipment fully fueled or a fuel charge shall be assessed (designed to cover [Defendant's] direct and indirect costs of refueling the Equipment)) . . . .

         ECF No. 29-1 at 3. Pursuant to the rental contracts, if Defendant refuels or transports equipment, it may charge for (1) refueling an amount “designed to cover [Defendant's] direct and indirect costs of refueling” (the Refueling Charges) and for (2) transportation an amount designed to cover its “delivery and pickup costs to and from the Store” (the Transportation Surcharges). ECF No. 29 at 8-9.

         The Complaint avers Defendant knowingly breached these contractual mandates by assessing (1) Refueling Charges not designed to cover just its refueling costs, which resulted in Defendant recovering far more than those costs, and (2) Transportation Surcharges on top of what Defendant already charged for pickup and delivery, ensuring Defendant recovered far more than its pickup and delivery costs. Plaintiff maintains no putative class member in this action could have had full knowledge of the alleged unlawful nature of Defendant's conduct.

         Defendant filed its motion to dismiss on April 21, 2017, to which Plaintiff filed a response and Defendant filed a reply. In Defendant's motion to dismiss, it attached a sample contract purportedly reflecting a September 10, 2014, rental transaction between Plaintiff and Defendant, along with related invoices. ECF Nos. 37-2 to -5. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of Defendant's motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To survive a motion to dismiss, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (2).

         Although Rule 8(a) does not require “'detailed factual allegations, '” it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), to “'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, '” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In other words, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible ...


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