United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Hyland Winnie, Jr., on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
D.R. Horton, Inc., Defendant.
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant D.R. Horton,
Inc.'s motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). [ECF No. 4]. The
Court grants the motion for the reasons set forth
complaint and attachments thereto allege and describe the
following. Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. is a builder and
seller of new homes in South Carolina. Compl. at 1 [ECF No.
1-1]. In 2015, Plaintiff Hyland Winnie, Jr. purchased a new
home in Horry County, South Carolina from Defendant.
Id. at ¶ 1. Defendant requires home buyers,
including Plaintiff, to execute Defendant's Home Purchase
Agreement. Id. at ¶ 9; see Home
Purchase Agreement [ECF No. 1-1]. The Home Purchase Agreement
contains a purported waiver of the warranty of habitability,
which is implied by South Carolina law, and instead provides
a limited warranty through a third party. Compl. at
¶¶ 10, 13; Home Purchase Agreement at ¶ 14.
Despite requiring purchasers of unequal sophistication and
bargaining power-including Plaintiff-to waive the implied
warranty of habitability as a condition of buying a new home,
Defendant provides no consideration in exchange, such as a
reduction in price or other benefit. Compl. at ¶¶
3, 16. Plaintiff contends that Defendant's Home Purchase
Agreement is unlawful and unfair, entitling Plaintiff to
money damages and injunctive relief. Id. at 2,
¶ 17. Notably, Plaintiff does not allege any defect with
the home he purchased. This is a proposed class action that
includes “all persons, excluding Defendant's agents
or principals, who have purchased a new home from [Defendant]
or any of its related companies using this Home Purchase
Agreement or materially similar [s]ales [c]ontract[s].”
Id. at ¶ 6.
March 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the
South Carolina Court of Common Pleas for Horry County,
asserting claims for: (1) breach of contract/breach of
implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (2) unjust
enrichment; and (3) declaratory relief. Compl. at 5-6. On
April 13, 2018, Defendant timely removed the case to this
Court under diversity jurisdiction. See Notice of
Removal [ECF No. 1]. On the same date, Defendant filed the
instant motion to dismiss. On May 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a
response, [ECF No. 9], and on May 11, 2018, Defendant filed a
reply thereto, [ECF No. 10]. The matter is now ripe for the
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to challenge
a federal court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of
the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). Here,
Defendant challenges Plaintiff's standing and the
ripeness of Plaintiff's claims. Although some elements of
standing are “merely prudential considerations that are
part of judicial self-government, the core component of
standing is an essential and unchanging part of the
case-or-controversy requirement of Article III[, ]”
limiting the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction.
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-60
(1992) (citation omitted). “When standing is challenged
on the pleadings, ” the Court “accept[s] as true
all material allegations of the complaint and construe[s] the
complaint in favor of the complaining party.” S.
Walk at Broadlands Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc. v.
OpenBand at Broadlands, LLC, 713 F.3d 175, 181-82 (4th
Cir. 2013). The plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating
standing. Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for
Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464,
other justiciability doctrines, ripeness derives from Article
III of the United States Constitution. Nat'l Park
Hosp. Ass'n v. Dep't of Interior, 538 U.S. 803,
808 (2003). Ripeness addresses “the appropriate timing
of judicial intervention, ” Cooksey v.
Futrell, 721 F.3d 226, 240 (4th Cir. 2013), and
“prevents judicial consideration of issues until a
controversy is presented in ‘clean-cut and concrete
form.'” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312,
318-19 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Rescue Army v. Mun. Court
of City of L.A., 331 U.S. 549, 584 (1947)).
“Analyzing ripeness is similar to determining whether a
party has standing.” Id. at 319.
“Although the phrasing makes the questions of who may
sue and when they sue seem distinct, in practice there is an
obvious overlap between the doctrines of standing and
ripeness.” Id. (citation omitted). Like
standing, ripeness is a question of subject matter
jurisdiction. Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head, 724
F.3d 533, 548 (4th Cir. 2013).
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case, then
remand, rather than outright dismissal, is appropriate
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), which governs procedure
after removal and plainly mandates remand where jurisdiction
is lacking. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“If
at any time before final judgment it appears that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case
shall be remanded.”); In re Blackwater Sec.
Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 589 (4th Cir. 2006)
(citing Int'l Primate Prot. League v. Adm'rs of
Tulane Educ. Fund, 500 U.S. 72, 89 (1991)) (holding that
§ 1447(c)'s “mandate is so clear that, once a
district court has found that it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction in a removed case, no other fact-finding, legal
analysis, or exercise of judicial discretion is necessary in
order to follow the congressional directive; the decision to
remand a case to remedy a lack of subject matter jurisdiction
is purely ministerial”).
ruling on a 12(b)(1) motion, the Court “should apply
the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment,
under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts
beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material
fact exists.” Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768
(4th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). The Court “may
consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting
the proceeding to one for summary judgment.”
Id. (citation omitted). “The moving party
should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are
not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as
a matter of law.” Id. (citation omitted).
moves to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 1 [ECF No. 4-1].
In particular, Defendant argues that: (1) Plaintiff lacks
standing because he has not suffered an injury; (2)
Plaintiff's claims are not ripe; (3) Plaintiff fails to
plead the necessary elements for each his three causes of
action; and (4) Defendant “is entitled to summary
judgment as to any . . . attorney's fees.”
Id. at 4-8. Defendant contends that “[i]n
short, Plaintiff seeks to make a seller's disclaimer of
the implied warranty of habitability actionable and
ignores prior precedent that . . . an ineffective disclaimer
is simply unenforceable.” Id. In
response, Plaintiff maintains that he has standing for his
claims that are ripe for adjudication because he has suffered
an actual injury in fact and a clear justiciable controversy
exists between the parties. Pl.'s Resp. at 1 [ECF No. 9].
Plaintiff further contends that the complaint adequately sets
forth facts, accepted as true, stating a plausible claim for
relief. Id. However, because Plaintiff lacks
standing and his claim is not ripe, as explained below, the
Court addresses the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). To
satisfy the “irreducible constitutional minimum of
standing[, ] . . . [a] plaintiff must have (1) suffered an
injury in fact, (2) that it fairly traceable to the
challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely
to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.”
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016);
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61
(1992). Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not suffered an
injury in fact. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 4-5.
Plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating injury in fact as
an element of standing. Valley Forge Christian
Coll., 454 U.S. at 484.
establish injury in fact, Plaintiff must show that he
“suffered ‘an invasion of a legally protected
interest' that is ‘concrete and particularized'
and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or
hypothetical.'” Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548
(quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560). Plaintiff claims
that his injury is “having to execute a Home Purchase
Agreement in which [Defendant] receives a valuable waiver of
warranty rights without paying the new home buyer separate
consideration as required by South Carolina law.”
Pl.'s Resp. at 6. “Stated another way, from the
date of closing on the sale of the new home onward, the Home
Purchase Agreement's waiver of the implied warranty of
habitability alters the parties' positions at common law
for [Defendant's] benefit and to the actual, immediate
detriment of new home buyers such as Plaintiff.”
Id. at 7. Plaintiff asserts that “[a]t this
pleading stage, these allegations are sufficient to establish
injury in fact for standing purposes.” Pl.'s Resp.
at 6. In response, Defendant points out that if the waiver is
indeed invalid, then the implied warranty remains intact, and
there is no detriment to Plaintiff. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to
Dismiss at 4. In the absence of an alleged defect with
Plaintiff's house, Defendant contends, there is no
injury, but “if Plaintiff were to discover an issue . .
. in the future and bring a claim alleging a breach of the