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Payne v. Ford

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 8, 2019

Kellie Payne, Plaintiff,
v.
Kistler Ford, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JEFFREY J. HELMICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Defendants Kistler Ford and Ford Motor Company move to dismiss all but one of Plaintiff Kellie Payne's claims. (Doc. No. 6 and 17). Ford also moves to strike Payne's allegations in support of her proposed class action. (Doc. No. 7). Payne has filed responses to the motions to dismiss, (Doc. No. 25 and 30), and to Ford's motion to strike her class allegations. (Doc. No. 13). Payne also moves to amend her complaint, (Doc. No. 33), and moves for a pretrial conference. (Doc. No. 35). Defendants have filed briefs in reply.

         For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted, and Ford's motion to strike and Payne's motions are denied.

         II. Standard

         A defendant may seek to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint on the ground the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts as true well-pleaded factual allegations. Daily Servs., LLC v. Valentino, 756 F.3d 893, 896 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). Factual allegations must be sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Legal conclusions and unwarranted factual inferences are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         Rule 15 provides a party may amend its pleadings once as a matter of course within 21 days of serving the pleading or, if a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(1). “In all other cases, 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.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(2). “In the absence of any apparent or declared reason - such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. - the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.'” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Head v. Jellico Hous. Auth., 870 F.2d 1117, 1123 (6th Cir. 1989). “Notice and substantial prejudice to the opposing party are critical factors in determining whether an amendment should be granted.” Hageman v. Signal L. P. Gas, Inc., 486 F.2d 479, 484 (6th Cir. 1973).

         III. Background

         Payne purchased a used 2013 Ford Explorer from Kistler Ford on April 10, 2015, for a total of $30, 069.00. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). On October 18, 2017, Payne learned Explorers reportedly had an issue with carbon monoxide entering the passenger cabin of the vehicle. (Id.). The following day, she told Kistler Ford she was experiencing “the physical and mental symptoms from the carbon monoxide exposure she had been suffering for several months.” (Id.). In December 2017, Ford issued a notice to current owners of model year 2011-2015 Explorers, offering to cure the carbon monoxide defect “free of charge.” (Id. at 28). Payne seeks recovery of economic damages both individually and on behalf of a class of “all persons similarly situation.” (Doc. No. 1-1 at 2).

         IV. Analysis

         Defendants seek to dismiss all of Payne's claims except Count VIII, which sets forth a cause of action for personal injuries she allegedly suffered as a result of the presence of exhaust odor in the passenger compartment of her Explorer. (Doc. No. 6; Doc. No. 17). Ford also has filed a motion to strike the class allegations from the complaint. (Doc. No. 7).

         After the parties completed briefing on the motions to dismiss, Payne filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint, asserting that a January 2019 notice related to the exhaust odor problem is proof Ford failed to remedy the problem previously. (Doc. No. 33). Payne seeks to amend her complaint to allege Ford intentionally or negligently failed to repair the exhaust odor problem and continues to expose consumers to the exhaust odor after having led them to believe the problem had been resolved. (Doc. No. 33 at 3).

         A. Claim Preclusion

         Defendants argue Payne's claims, other than her cause of action for alleged personal injuries she sustained due to the presence of exhaust odor in the passenger compartment of her vehicle, are barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion, because of the final class action settlement order entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, in Sanchez-Knutson v. Ford Motor Co., No. 14-cv-61344. In that case, Angela Sanchez-Knutson, on behalf of a subsequently-certified class of “[a]ll entities and natural persons in the United States” who were current or former owners of a model year 2011-2015 Ford Explorer, asserted claims for: (1) violation ...


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