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Napoleon Express, Inc. v. Volvo Trucks North America

July 17, 2008

NAPOLEON EXPRESS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA, INC. AND TWIN BRIDGES TRUCK CITY, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior U.S. District Judge George W. Lindberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Napoleon Express, Inc.'s ("Napoleon") amended complaint against Volvo Trucks North America, Inc. and Twin Bridges Truck City, Inc. alleges three claims: breach of contract (Count I), breach of the implied warranty of merchantability (Count II), and breach of the implied warranty of fitness (Count III). Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that any recovery is barred by disclaimers within Volvo Truck's Standard Truck Warranty Certificate ("Truck Warranty Certificate"), Standard Volvo Engine Warranty Certificate ("Engine Warranty Certificate") and Warranty Registration (collectively "Warranty Documents").

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal when a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). This requirement imposes two easy-to-clear hurdles:

First, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." . . . . Second, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a "speculative level"; if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court.

Id.; see also Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007) ("obligation to provide the grounds of [plaintiff's] entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do"). When determining whether a plaintiff has cleared these hurdles, the court "accept[s] the complaint's well-pleaded allegations as true and draw[s] all favorable inferences for [plaintiff]." Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618.

Although the court has before it a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, it may consider the Warranty Documents because they are concededly authentic and are central to plaintiff's claims. See Albany Bank & Trust Co. v. Exxon Mobile Corp., 310 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2002).

In considering the effect of the Warranty Documents, this court applies Illinois substantive law. Illinois adopted the Uniform Commercial Code, which permits parties to exclude implied warranties from their sales contract. 810 ILCS 5/2-316(2).

In regards to Counts II and III, both parties agree that their dealings gave rise to an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose and to an implied warranty of merchantability. Defendants knew, at the time of contacting, that plaintiff needed trucks for interstate cargo transport and plaintiff relied on defendants' expertise to manufacture and sell such vehicles. The dispositive question, then, for purposes of defendants' motion to dismiss, is whether the language in the Warranty Documents was sufficient to disclaim these implied warranties.

The Uniform Commercial Code requires that:

[T]o exclude or modify the implied warranty of merchantability or any part of it the language must mention merchantability and in case of a writing must be conspicuous, and to exclude or modify any implied warranty of fitness the exclusion must be by a writing and conspicuous. 810 ILCS 5/2-316(2).

Conspicuous language is:

[S]o written that a reasonable person against whom it is to operate ought to have noticed it. . . . Language in the body of a form is "conspicuous" if it is in larger or other contrasting type or color. 810 ILCS 5/1-201(10); also see L.S. Heath & Sons, Inc. v. AT&T Info. Sys., Inc., 9 F.3d 561, 571 (7th Cir. 1993). The court determines whether a particular term or clause is conspicuous. 810 ILCS 5/1-201(10).

A statement on the front of the Engine Warranty Certificate ("the statement") provides: SEE REVERSE SIDE FOR ...


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