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Snow v. Forest River, Inc.

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

December 7, 2018

STEPHEN SNOW, Plaintiff,
v.
FOREST RIVER, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Stephen Snow, purchased an RV that he says is a complete dud. Among other problems, it dumped “potty water” (Snow's term, not mine), covered him in his own “poop” on one occasion, and had a whole host of other problems. The RV was manufactured by defendant Forest River, and was sold by defendant, William Colaw and his company Colaw RV Parts. The present motion to dismiss [DE 19] is brought by Forest River as to all claims brought against it. Several counts of the amended complaint are not implicated by the motion because they are brought only against Colaw and his company.

         The first amended complaint brings several causes of action against Forest River, which while titled negligence, breach of contract, and revocation of acceptance, are all really based upon an alleged breach of Forest River's limited warranty. Because Snow did not bring a timely warranty action against Forest River, and revocation of acceptance is not a viable remedy, Snow has failed to state a claim of action against Forest River. For the reasons detailed below, the motion [DE 19] will be GRANTED as to all claims brought against Forest River - Count 3 (negligence and negligent misrepresentation), Count 4 (breach of contract), Count 5 (negligent repair), and Count 6 (revocation of acceptance), and these claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to Defendant Forest River. The claims against William Colaw, individually and doing business as Colaw RV Parts, will remain pending.

         Factual Background

         Snow filed an initial complaint in this case on February 20, 2018, alleging violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of express warranties and/or contract, and breach of implied warranties. [DE 1.] In response to Forest River's motion to dismiss based on untimeliness, Snow filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. [DE 11.] The Magistrate Judge granted him leave to file by June 6, 2018, and Snow filed his amended complaint a few days late, on June 12, 2018. [DE 12.] The amended complaint drops any reference to the Magnuson-Moss Act and instead is based entirely on violations of state law. The purported ground for jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship, and I recently found jurisdiction proper in this case. [DE 27.]

         In looking at the facts as they are alleged in the amended complaint, I accept them as true for now. Snow purchased a new 2016 Primetime Spartan RV on March 5, 2016. [Am. Compl. ¶ 7.] The total cost was approximately $64, 000. The purchase included express and limited warranties offered by Forest River, and the warranties “were part of the basis of bargain of Plaintiff's contract for purchase of the [RV].” [Id. ¶¶9-13.] The amended complaint states: “[u]pon information and belief, FOREST RIVER's limited warranty is for a period of one (1) year but also states that ‘(n)o action to enforce express or limited warranties shall be commenced later than ninety (90) days after expiration of the warranty period.'” [Id. ¶ 27.] Snow also discusses implied warranties and express warranties, and alleges that when delivered, the RV was defective, such defects being discovered within the warranty periods. [Id. at 3-4.]

         Snow describes problems with the jacks and automatic leveling system, pipes, sound system, decals, the roof leaking, and the RV expelling “poop” and “potty water.” [Id. at 4-8.] Although Snow got his RV serviced multiple times from defendants and other authorized warranty service dealers, he alleges that the more significant and dangerous conditions were not repaired, it was not brought “into conformity with the warranties, ” and the defects impaired the RV's use, value and safety. [Id. at 7-8.] Ultimately, Snow told the defendants he wanted a rescission of the sale, but they refused to buy back his RV. [Id. at 8.]

         Discussion

         Forest River has moved to dismiss all the claims against it in the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); accord Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While I must accept all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the complainant's favor, I don't need to accept threadbare legal conclusions supported by purely conclusory statements. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Snow must allege “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Making the plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Snow does not attach the warranty to the complaint or amended complaint, but Forest River does attach it as an exhibit to its memorandum in support of dismissal, and I will consider it. [DE 20-1.] The Seventh Circuit has held that a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) can be based upon critical documents that are referred to in the complaint without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2012); see also 188 LLC v. Trinity Indus., Inc., 300 F.3d 730, 735 (7th Cir. 2002) (“documents attached to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim.”) (quotation and citation omitted). This exception is specifically “aimed at cases interpreting, for example, a contract, ” like the case before me now. Levenstein v. Salafsky, 164 F.3d 345, 347 (7th Cir 1998).

         A. Choice of Law

         As a preliminary matter, I must consider what law applies in this case. Neither party discusses this. Forest River quotes both Indiana and Missouri law and Snow, aside from the federal pleading standard, cites no case law whatsoever.

         Forest River is an Indiana corporation authorized to do business in Indiana, with its principal place of business in Elkhart, Indiana. [Am. Compl. ¶ 2.] Snow is a citizen of Tennessee [Id.] and William K. Colaw, individually and doing business as Colaw RV Parts (“Colaw RV Parts”), is a Missouri business with its principal place of business in Carthage, Missouri. [Id. ¶ 3.] Snow purchased the RV in Missouri. [Id. ¶14.]

         Because there is diversity jurisdiction, I must follow Indiana substantive law, including the state of Indiana's rules as to conflicts of law and choice of law. Ruckman v. Pinecrest Marina, Inc., 367 F.Supp. 25, 26 (N.D. Ind. 1973). Under Indiana law, statutes of limitation are procedural (not substantive), and are not subject to parties' choice of law disputes. See Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts Inc., 717 F.Supp. 1374, 1385 (S.D. Ind. 1989) (“Because in Indiana statutes of limitations are procedural in nature, Indiana choice-of-law rules state that ...


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