United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
July 13, 2000
RANDAL AND CAROLYN SCHMIDT, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
NISSAN MOTOR ACCEPTANCE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gettleman, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Randal and Carolyn Schmidt, on behalf of themselves
and all others similarly situated, have filed a single count
amended class action complaint against defendant, Nissan Motor
Acceptance Corporation, alleging that defendant's disclosure of a
$250.00 disposition fee violated the Consumer Leasing Act,
15 U.S.C. § 1667 et seq. Defendant has moved to dismiss the amended
complaint pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 8 and 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons
set forth below, defendant's motion to dismiss is denied.
On December 30, 1995, plaintiffs leased a 1996 Nissan Maxima
automobile from Royal Nissan, Inc., in Minnesota. As part of the
transaction, plaintiffs signed a standardized, pre-printed lease
agreement authored by defendant. Near the end of the lease term,
in or about November 1998, plaintiffs returned the automobile to
Royal Nissan, Inc., in Minnesota. Subsequently, defendant sent
plaintiffs a "Lease Termination" notice requesting the final
month's lease charge, an extra mileage charge, a $250.00
disposition fee, and a disposition fee tax of $16.50. According
to the amended complaint, plaintiffs were confused and surprised
at being assessed a $250.00 disposition fee. As they explain,
prior to receiving the Lease Termination notice they were unaware
of the disposition fee or tax.
Believing that defendant's disclosure of the disposition fee
was inadequate, plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and all
others similarly situated, filed a three-count class action
complaint against defendant. In response, defendant filed a
motion to dismiss. In order to remedy the defects complained of
by defendant in its motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed a single
count amended complaint. Paragraph 25 of plaintiffs' amended
complaint alleges that, "[t]he disposition fee contained in the
Lease Agreement is not clearly and conspicuously disclosed in a
meaningful sequence reasonably understandable to the average
consumer, in violation of the Consumer Leasing Act." Paragraph 26
of plaintiffs' amended complaint claims that the disposition fee
is disclosed in a font size less than 10-point type, in violation
of the Consumer Leasing Act.
In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the court considers "whether relief is possible under any set of
facts that could be established consistent with the allegations."
Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G., 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir.
1992). A claim may be dismissed only if it is beyond doubt that
under no set of facts would the plaintiff's allegations entitle
him to relief. See Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1429-30 (7th Cir. 1996). The purpose
of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the
complaint, not to decide its merits. See Gibson v. City of
Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). For purposes of a
motion to dismiss, the court accepts the factual allegations of
the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff. See Travel All Over the World, 73 F.3d
Defendant claims that paragraph 25 of plaintiffs' amended
complaint fails to comply with the pleading requirements of Rule
8 and should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) because it
does not specifically identify how defendant has failed to
"clearly and conspicuously" disclose the disposition fee.*fn1
Plaintiffs argue that because
they included allegations in their amended complaint that they
"were confused by the `Disp Fee' and surprised at being assessed
a $250 charge at the end of the lease," they have satisfied Rule
8 and have pled enough to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
According to plaintiffs, allegations that a lease is confusing
and not reasonably understandable to the average consumer are
enough to survive a motion to dismiss. To support their
allegations, plaintiffs have cited Johnson v. Revenue Management
Corp., 169 F.3d 1057 (7th Cir. 1999), a Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act case, which held that "a contention that a
debt-collection notice is confusing is a recognized legal claim;
no more is needed to survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6)." Id.
at 1059. Johnson, however, is inapplicable in the instant case.
Although the plaintiff's claim in Johnson was brought under the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the instant case is brought
under the Consumer Leasing Act, which does not require that lease
disclosures be comprehensible to the average consumer. As the
court in Channell v. Citicorp National Services Inc.,
89 F.3d 379 (7th Cir. 1996), explained, "clear and conspicuous manner"
within the context of § 1667(a) of the Consumer Leasing Act
refers to the mode of presentation, not the degree of
comprehension. Id. at 382. So long as a disclosure is visible,
it has satisfied the "clear and conspicuous manner" requirement
of § 1667 of the Consumer Leasing Act, even if it is
incomprehensible to the average consumer. Id. Accordingly,
plaintiffs' argument that allegations of confusion are enough to
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss fails. Nevertheless,
this court finds that plaintiffs have pled enough in their
amended complaint to satisfy Rule 8 and survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss.
Rule 8 sets forth a liberal notice pleading standard. Under
Rule 8(a)(2), a plaintiff is required to provide only "a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." To comply with this liberal pleading
standard, a plaintiff need provide the defendant only with
"minimal notice of the claim." Jackson v. Marion County,
66 F.3d 151, 153 (7th Cir. 1995). While a plaintiff must "give
adequate notice to the defendant of the basis of the suit," Rule
8 does not require him to specify particular legal theories in
its complaint. Wudtke v. Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir.
1997). Further, contrary to defendant's assertion, Rule 8 does
not require a plaintiff to plead specific facts. The Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to set out in
detail the facts upon which he bases his claim. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47-48, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). As
the court in Jackson explained, "[a] plaintiff in suit in
federal court need not plead facts; he can plead conclusions," as
long as those conclusions provide the defendant with at least
"minimal notice of the claim." Jackson, 66 F.3d at 153.
The court finds that paragraph 25 of plaintiffs' amended
complaint satisfies the liberal notice pleading standard of Rule
8, which requires plaintiffs only to give defendant minimal
notice of the basis of the suit. Further, based on the factual
allegations contained in plaintiffs' amended complaint, and
drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiffs, the
court finds that a reasonable jury could conclude that
defendant's disclosure of the disposition fee violated the
Consumer Leasing Act. Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is denied.
Defendant is ordered to file its answer to the amended
complaint on or before
July 31, 2000. The July 18, 2000, status report is vacated and
continued to August 9, 2000, at 9:00 a.m.