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Weinreich v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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

October 31, 2019

Gary Weinreich, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., a California corporation; Toyota Motor Corporation, a Japanese corporation; Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 10) and Plaintiffs Motion to Amend the Complaint. (Dkt. No. 19.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiffs motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Gary Weinreich alleges that in June 2005 he purchased a new Toyota 4-Runner Sport (the "Car"). (Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 27.) Plaintiff alleges that in both 2011 and 2013, when he took his car to be serviced at the Toyota Service Center in Myrtle Beach, mechanics noted that the Car's undercarriage was severely rusted, including on the transmission, however no one indicated there was "structural or safety" problems from the rust. (Id. at ¶¶ 29 - 31.) In 2017, while his Car was being serviced by Meineke, Plaintiff was informed that his Car had "excessive frame corrosion." (Id. at ¶ 32.) Plaintiff also alleges that this is the first time he was informed that other Toyota cars had a customer support program for corrosion issues. (Id.)

         On May 24, 2018, while Plaintiff was driving the Car, the wheel began vibrating and Plaintiff lost control of the Car. (Id. at ¶ 35.) The Car was towed to a garage, and Plaintiff alleges that it was determined that the right front control arm of the Car broke away from the frame due to corrosion and rust. (Id. at ¶ 36.) Plaintiff alleges that Toyota knew of the alleged defect in the frame, namely inadequate rust corrosion protection, as Toyota had previously initiated service campaigns to address excessive rust on alleged substantially similar car frames on other Toyota vehicles.[1] (Id. at ¶¶ 16, 22 - 26.) Plaintiff has since filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and claims to bring this case for himself and on behalf of a class of plaintiffs who owned 2005 - 2011 Toyota 4-Runners. (Id. at ¶¶ 38, 42.)

         Plaintiff brought this products liability case on December 6, 2018, alleging that Defendants Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. (collectively, "Defendants") breached implied and express warranties, violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq., and engaged in negligent misrepresentation by selling Plaintiff a Toyota 4-Runner that was prone to "excessive rust corrosion," rendering the vehicle unsafe. (Id. at ¶¶ 50 - 89, 94 - 100.) Plaintiff also brought a claim for injunctive relief. (Id. at ¶¶ 90 - 93.)

         Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that Plaintiffs claims are barred by the statute of limitations and, regardless, the allegations fail on substantive grounds. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Dkt. No. 20.) Additionally, Plaintiff also seeks to amend his complaint. (Dkt. No. 19.) The proposed amended complaint is almost identical to his initially- filed complaint, yet includes new causes of action for negligence and strict liability. (Dkt. No. 19-2.) Defendants oppose the amendment, and Plaintiff filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 24, 25.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses.... Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombfy, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

         B. Motion to Amend

         Pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, after the time has passed to amend a pleading as a matter of course, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Rule 15(a) is a "liberal rule [that] gives effect to the federal policy in favor of resolving cases on their merits instead of disposing of them on technicalities." Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (en banc). However, "[m]otions to amend are committed to the discretion of the trial court." Keller v. Prince George's County, 923 F.2d 30, 33 (4th Cir. 1991). Specifically, the "district court may deny a motion to amend when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad faith, or the amendment would be futile." Equal Rights Ctr., 602 F.3d at 602-03.

         "Leave to amend [ ] should only be denied on the ground of futility when the proposed amendment is clearly insufficient or frivolous on its face." Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 510 (4th Cir. 1986). "If an amendment would fail to withstand a motion to dismiss, it is futile." Woods v. Boeing Co., 841 F.Supp.2d 925, 930 (D.S.C. 2012); see also United States ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008) ("[A] district court may deny leave if amending the complaint would be futile-that is, if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules.") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Therefore, if any new well-pleaded facts are asserted in the new proposed complaint, but they fail to show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, the court should deny the motion for leave to amend." In re. Bldg. Materials Corp. of Am. Asphalt Roofing Shingle Prod. Liab. Litig., No. 8-11-2000-JMC, 2013 WL 12152414, at *2 (D.S.C. June 17, 2013).

         III. ...


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