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Brocuglio v. Thor Motor Coach, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 31, 2017




         I. BACKGROUND

         In this action, plaintiffs Linda and Wayne Brocuglio ("Brocuglio Family"), citizens of North Carolina, bring claims against Thor Motor Coach, Inc. ("Thor"). On December 13, 2013, plaintiffs purchased a 2013 Four Winds Class A motor coach vehicle ("RV") manufactured by Thor. (DE # 1 at 2.) The RV was purchased at Carolina Coach and Camper, LLC ("Carolina Coach"), a supplier, merchant, and authorized representative of Thor. (Id. at 3.) Within a week of their purchase, plaintiffs discovered major water leakage problems in the RV and returned it to Thor for servicing and repairs. (Id. at 4.) This was just the beginning of plaintiffs' problems with the RV, as they discovered numerous defects requiring many lengthy repairs over the course of the next year. (Id.) With the RV having been in repair shops for a combined 160 days, plaintiffs provided written notice to Thor demanding either a replacement RV or their money back. (Id.)

         Thor refused this demand just as it had plaintiffs' previous demands. (Id. at 4-5.) Instead, Thor promised plaintiffs that, if given one more chance to repair the vehicle, "it would be fixed correctly and [the Brocuglio Family] would come away happy." (Id. at 5.) Furthermore, Thor promised to provide continuous progress updates on the repairs (including photographs of their work) and to perform a "200 point" inspection before returning it. (Id.; DE # 35-2 at 4.) Plaintiffs agreed to yet another repair. However, plaintiffs allege that Thor broke its promises by failing to provide progress updates and more importantly, failing to satisfactorily repair the RV. (DE # 1 at 5.)

         Plaintiffs filed this action bringing breach of warranty claims under North Carolina law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, as well as a claim under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Statute ("UDTPA"). (DE #1.) Thor has filed a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the UDTPA claim based on the failure to allege actionable conduct and, alternatively, based on the economic loss rule. (DE # 26.) Thor has also moved under Rule 12(b)(1) to dismiss plaintiffs' warranty claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the failure to meet the minimum amount-in-controversy requirements. (Id.) For the following reasons, Thor's motion will be granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         Thor has also moved to exclude the valuation testimony of plaintiffs' expert, Tom Bailey. (DE # 24.) The Brocuglio Family has filed their own motion to strike various exhibits accompanying Thor's motions. (DE # 31.) Both motions will be denied as moot.


         A. Rule 12(c)

         In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), the court applies the same standard that is applied when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007). That means that the court "take[s] the facts alleged in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Id. The complaint must contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         While there is no need for detailed factual allegations, the complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Pisciotta, 499 F.3d at 633 (citation omitted). Factual allegations also must be enough to raise a right to relief above the "speculative level" to the level of "plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). 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." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. In examining the facts and matching them up with the stated legal claims, the court must give "the plaintiff the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint." Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psych. & Neur., Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994).

         As with a 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff defending a 12(c) motion "can elaborate on his factual allegations so long as the new elaborations are consistent with the pleadings, " and may "submit materials outside the pleadings to illustrate the facts [he] expects to be able to prove." Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.l (7th Cir. 2012); see Id. ("In the turmoil concerning civil pleading standards stirred up by [Iqbal] and [Twombly], a plaintiff who is opposing a Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c) motion and who can provide such illustration may find it prudent to do so.").

         B. Rule 12(b)(1)

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure command that courts dismiss any suit over which they lack subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). In ruling on such a motion, the court "must accept the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor." Franzoni v. Hartmarx Corp., 300 F.3d 767, 771 (7th Cir. 2002). However, the court may also "properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Capitol Leasing Co. v. F.D.I.C, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993).

         "Generally the amount in controversy claimed by a plaintiff in good faith will be determinative on the issue of jurisdictional amount, unless it appears to a legal certainty that the claim is for less than that required by the rule." NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Americam Inc.,45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir. 1995). If material factual allegations are contested, the proponent of federal jurisdiction must "prove those jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence." Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski,441 F.3d 536, 543 (7th Cir. 2006). "Once the facts have been established, uncertainty about whether the plaintiff can prove its substantive claim, and whether damages (if the plaintiff prevails on the merits) will exceed the threshold, does not justify dismissal." Id. (citing Johnson v. ...

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