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Lantz v. American Honda Motor Company

September 27, 2007

RON LANTZ, DENNIS GRIBBINS, RICHARD ALLEN AND CLARENCE ALVORD, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nan R. Nolan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Ron Lantz, Dennis Gribbins, Richard Allen, and Clarence Alvord filed a class action complaint against Defendant American Honda Motor Company, Inc. ("Honda"), alleging a variety of state law claims arising from Honda's deceptive and unlawful conduct in designing, manufacturing, marketing, distributing, selling, servicing and/or failing to service GL1800 Gold Wing Motorcycles. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that the Gold Wing GL1800 model has a design defect that causes it to wobble at low speeds between 25 and 40 mph, preventing owners from using the motorcycle for touring at higher speeds and long distances, as advertised and intended. Plaintiffs filed their initial class action complaint on November 1, 2006, with jurisdiction premised on the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). Plaintiffs sought to apply California law to a nationwide class, alleging that Honda violated the California Business and Professions Code, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq. (Count I) and §§ 17500 et seq. (Count II); the California Civil Code, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750 et seq. (Count III); the California Commercial Code, Cal. Comm. Code §§ 2313 and 2314 (Counts IV and V); and California's common law of unjust enrichment. Alternatively, Plaintiffs asserted several claims under the laws of the District of Columbia and every state except California, including violation of consumer protection laws, breach of state express and implied warranties, and common law unjust enrichment.

The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and on May 14, 2007, the court granted in part and denied in part Honda's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims. Lantz v. American Honda Motor Co., No. 06 C 5932, 2007 WL 1424614 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2007). The court dismissed all of the California state law counts on conflicts grounds, noting that "Plaintiffs purchased and used their Gold Wing motorcycles in Florida and Illinois, the states in which they reside"; "[a]ny alleged fraud made in connection with the purchases occurred at the points of purchase in those two states"; "Plaintiffs received and acted on the representations in Florida and Illinois, and that is where the parties' relationships are centered"; and "Plaintiffs negotiated and contracted to buy the motorcycles in Florida and Illinois, and that is where delivery occurred and where the motorcycles are located." Id. at *4-5 (citing Tanner v. Jupiter Realty Corp., 433 F.3d 913, 915-16 (7th Cir. 2006); Curran v. Kwon, 153 F.3d 481, 488 (7th Cir. 1998)). The court next held that Plaintiffs themselves could only assert claims under the laws of Illinois and Florida, the two states in which they reside. Id. at *6. The court clarifies here that this finding was not intended as an anticipatory bar or limitation on class certification or representation. Rather, the court interpreted Honda's motion to dismiss as challenging Plaintiffs' standing to sue in their own rights. To the extent Plaintiffs may only themselves recover for damages suffered under the laws of the states in which they reside, the court analyzed their claims under those laws alone.

With respect to the allegations of consumer fraud, the court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, 815 ILCS 505/1 et seq., and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Fl. Stat. §§ 501.201 et seq., for failure to plead fraud with particularity. Id. at *8-10. The court found that Mr. Gribbins' claims that Honda breached express and implied warranties were untimely, and dismissed the remaining breach of implied warranty claims for lack of privity between Plaintiffs and Honda. Id. at *10, 11 (citing 810 ILCS 5/2-725(1); Rothe v. Maloney Cadillac, Inc., 119 Ill. 2d 288, 292, 518 N.E.2d 1028, 1029 (1988); Mekertichian v. Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., L.L.C., 347 Ill. App. 3d 828, 832, 807 N.E.2d 1165, 1169 (1st Dist. 2004); Weiss v. Johansen, 898 So.2d 1009, 1012 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2005)). Finally, the court dismissed Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claims because Mr. Gribbins had an adequate remedy at law, and the remaining Plaintiffs failed to allege that they lacked an express warranty precluding such claims. Id. at *12. Thus, the only claims still at issue were Mr. Lantz's, Mr. Allen's and Mr. Alvord's express warranty claims under Florida law. The court gave Plaintiffs until July 9, 2007 to file an amended complaint consistent with this opinion. (Minute Order of 5/17/07, Doc. 41.)

Six individuals (the "Intervenors") are now petitioning the court for leave to intervene in this action as plaintiffs, and the current named Plaintiffs seek leave to file an Amended Complaint incorporating new allegations and claims relating to these individuals. For the reasons set forth here, the petition to intervene and to file the Amended Complaint is granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are set forth in detail in the court's May 14, 2007 opinion, and this opinion assumes the reader's familiarity with that earlier decision. Lantz, 2007 WL 1424614, at *1-3.

A. The Intervenors

Like the current named Plaintiffs, the Intervenors all purchased Honda Gold Wing GL1800 motorcycles and claim that they have personally experienced and been damaged by the wobble problem. Clifford Harrelson purchased his 2006 Gold Wing GL1800 in Augusta, Kansas on August 25, 2006. (Int. Mot. ¶ 5.) After riding the motorcycle for less than ten miles, he noticed a severe wobble at speeds between 30 and 40 m.p.h. Mr. Harrelson informed his Honda dealer about the problem and was told that the dealership had received a lot of similar complaints. (Id.)

Lon Hebert is a citizen of Texas who purchased a 2006 Gold Wing in Corinth, Mississippi in November 2005. (Id. ¶ 6; Amended Complaint ("AC") ¶ 11.) He first noticed a severe wobble in February 2006, after riding the motorcycle approximately 4,000 miles. Mr. Hebert told his Honda dealership that he experienced a wobble at speeds of 40 m.p.h. through deceleration to 30 m.p.h., and was told that it was a characteristic of the GL1800. (Id.) The dealership charged Mr. Hebert an installation fee to replace the front tire, but this did not eliminate the wobble. Neither did the addition of a super brace to the front forks. Mr. Hebert ultimately replaced the existing bearings with tapered bearings, which solved the problem, but Honda has refused to pay for any of the repairs. (Id.)

John Tilly, a resident of Louisiana, noticed a severe wobble on his Gold Wing GL1800 immediately after he bought it in Lafayette, Indiana on January 10, 2006. (Id. ¶ 7; AC ¶ 12.) Mr. Tilly told the Honda dealership that the wobble occurred at speeds between 35 and 40 m.p.h. The dealership confirmed that it was aware of the problem, but refused to fix the motorcycle. (Id.)

DeWayne Rector purchased his new 2005 Gold Wing in Logansport, Indiana in August 2005. (Id. ¶ 8.) After riding the motorcycle for approximately 10,000 miles, he noticed a severe wobble during deceleration below 40 to 45 m.p.h. The Honda dealership told Mr. Rector to replace the tires or adjust the steering head bearings and, if those measures did not work, to replace the steering head bearings. (Id.) Replacing the bearings was not, however, covered under Mr. Rector's warranty and would require over six hours of labor. Mr. Rector temporarily solved the wobble problem by over-tightening the steering head bearing, but the wobble returned after approximately 1,500 miles of riding. (Id.)

Henry Seppi, a resident of Delaware, has owned four Gold Wing motorcycles, including the GL1800 he purchased in Keyser, West Virginia in 2004. (Id. ¶ 9; AC ¶ 14.) He noticed a severe wobble on the GL1800 after riding it approximately 10,000 miles. When Mr. Seppi contacted his Honda dealership, he was told that he should not take his hands off the handle bars. (Id.)

Kevin Garthe is a resident of Illinois, but he purchased his new Gold Wing in Union City, Tennessee in 2005. (Id. ¶ 10; AC ¶ 15.) Within months of the purchase, he noticed a severe wobble at 15 m.p.h. that continued to get worse over time. At the dealership's recommendation, Mr. Garthe purchased and installed a fork brace, but ...


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