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Armstrong v. Deere & Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 20, 2017

CRAIG ARMSTRONG on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
DEERE & COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Deere & Company (“Deere”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Filing No. 24.) On August 15, 2016, Craig Armstrong, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated consumers (“Armstrong”), filed an Amended Complaint against Deere, asserting fifteen tort- and contract-based claims relating to misrepresentations and defective design of a John Deere seed planter that he purchased in 2014. (Filing No. 21.) For reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the Amended Complaint, and draws all possible inferences in Armstrong's favor. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.”).

         Armstrong is a farmer and resident of Indiana. In 2014, he purchased a new John Deere 1770NT seed planter (“the Planter”) from an authorized Deere dealer in Greenfield, Indiana. The benefit of the Planter, as well as other models of Deere planters is that the machines plant seeds in the soil and distribute liquid fertilizer at the time the seeds are deposited in the soil. Throughout the years, Armstrong used other models of Deere planters without any substantial problems. In 2014, however, Deere changed the design of its planters and created the Planter at issue. Similar to prior models, the Planter is constructed with hoses that connects the fertilizer nozzles to the fertilizer reservoir. The hoses are used to move liquid fertilizer across the Planter in order to distribute the fertilizer to the crops. Unlike prior models, however, the Planter was equipped with hoses of various, rather than equal, lengths.

         Deere did not notify customers of this change in design. On April 20, 2014, after Armstrong planted approximately 2, 740 acres of corn crops, he discovered that the Planter failed to evenly fertilize the crop. He informed his local authorized Deere dealer that the Planter contained a defect. The dealer examined the Planter and informed Armstrong that the Planter failed to evenly distribute fertilizer due to the varying lengths of the hoses. The dealer, however, did not offer to compensate Armstrong or fix the distribution problem. The net result of the defect was uneven fertilizer distribution, uneven emergence and growth of crops, and, ultimately, decreased overall crop yield and profits.

         On August 15, 2016, Armstrong filed an Amended Complaint against Deere, alleging the Planter does not conform to its express representation. (Filing No. 21.) The Amended Complaint is brought on his own behalf, and on behalf of a proposed class consisting of all person or entities domiciled or residing in the United States who purchased or leased the year 2014 planter manufactured by Deere. Armstrong asserts, prior to purchasing the Planter, he reviewed and relied on two brochures published by Deere. The first brochure is Deere's December 2008 Planting Equipment product brochure, which marketed Deere's seed planters as “the only planter on the market that can offer even emergence, correct population, uniform spacing, and speed to get the most production within the optimum window.” Id. at 4 (emphasis added). The second brochure is Deere's September 2010 Planting Equipment product brochure, which promised its “single-piston, variable-stroke pump uniformly applies liquid fertilizer.” Id. at 5 (emphasis added). The Amended Complaint asserts fifteen tort- and contract- based counts, specifically:

Count One-breach of consumer and market protection statutes for all fifty states, including Indiana Code § 24-5-0.5-1 et seq.;
Count Two-breach of Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“ICFA”);
Count Three-breach of express warranty;
Count Four-breach of implied warranty of merchantability;
Count Five-revocation of acceptance;
Count Six-tortious interference with business relationships;
Count Seven-constructive fraud;
Count Eight-common law fraud;
Count Nine-fraudulent misrepresentation;
Count Ten-breach of contract;
Count Eleven-implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
Count Twelve-fraudulent concealment;
Count Thirteen-negligence;
Count Fourteen-negligent misrepresentation; and
Count Fifteen-unjust enrichment.

Id.

         On September 14, 2016, Deere moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim. (Filing No. 24.) In response, Armstrong withdrew several of the claims alleged in the Amended Complaint, including the: breach of express warranty; breach of implied warranty of merchantability; revocation of acceptance; tortious interference with business relationships; breach of contract; breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and negligence claims[1]. (Filing No. 30 at 1 n.1.)

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts all factual allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). However, courts “are not ...


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