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MacNeil Automotive Products, Limited v. Cannon Automotive Limited

May 25, 2010

MACNEIL AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCTS, LIMITED, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CANNON AUTOMOTIVE LIMITED, F/K/A CANNON RUBBER LIMITED, AUTOMOTIVE DIVISION, A UNITED KINGDOM COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

This case arises from defendant Cannon Automotive Limited's ("Cannon") supply of allegedly defective automobile floor mats to MacNeil Automotive Products, Limited ("MacNeil"), which contracted to supply those mats to automakers Hyundai and BMW. According to MacNeil, Cannon supplied floor mats in which the carpet portion and the rubber portion of the mats did not properly adhere. MacNeil asserts eight causes of action, including breach of contract, breach of warranties, consumer fraud, and conversion. This case is presently before the court on two matters. The first matter is Cannon's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, alternatively, for a more definite statement.*fn1 Second, the court considers the magistrate judge's report and recommendation denying Cannon's motion to dismiss for MacNeil's alleged spoliation of evidence.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to seek dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). Legal conclusions, however, are not entitled to any assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). A plaintiff generally need not plead particularized facts; Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that the complaint set forth only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Still, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

The Seventh Circuit has summarized the requirements of Twombly, Iqbal, and other recent precedent as follows:

First, a plaintiff must provide notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.

Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). As the Seventh Circuit has recently reiterated, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion generally cannot be based on matters outside the complaint; instead, the court can construe such a motion as one for summary judgment. See Miller v. Herman, No. 08-3093, --- F.3d ----, 2010 WL 1068227, at *5 (7th Cir. Mar. 25, 2010).

In addition to moving pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Cannon alternatively seeks a more definite statement regarding certain matters. Rule 12(e) states, "A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). "Motions for a more definite statement should not be used to gain additional information, but, particularly in light of our liberal notice pleading requirement, should be granted only when the pleading is so unintelligible that the movant cannot draft a responsive pleading." Kingsbury Int'l, Ltd. v. Trade The News, Inc., No. 08 C 3110, 2008 WL 4853615, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 28, 2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

II. ANALYSIS

Cannon seeks dismissal of each of the eight counts of MacNeil's complaint.

A. Breach of Contract

Cannon seeks dismissal of Count I, MacNeil's breach of contract claim. Specifically, Cannon asserts that MacNeil's allegations are skeletal and muddied with legal conclusions and therefore fail to provide sufficient notice to defendant of MacNeil's claims.

This argument is meritless. MacNeil alleges that it and Cannon entered into two contracts by which Cannon agreed to supply floor mats to MacNeil so that MacNeil could supply those floor mats to Hyundai and BMW, and that Cannon breached the contracts by delivering defective floor mats and by failing to deliver adequate floor mats on a timely basis. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-9, 39, 41.) MacNeil further alleges: when the parties entered into the oral contracts at issue; in what way the supplied floor mats were defective; and which Cannon representatives dealt with MacNeil. While Cannon lists a litany of questions that are not answered by the complaint, notice pleading does not require in-depth factual detail. MacNeil's allegations are sufficient to put Cannon on notice of the claim. For the same reasons, Cannon's alternative motion for a more definite statement is denied; MacNeil's Count I is not so "vague or ambiguous that [Cannon] cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).

Cannon next argues that MacNeil has pled itself out of court by conceding that it has not paid for some floor mats, see id. ¶¶ 48, 49, which is inconsistent with MacNeil's earlier allegation that it fulfilled all terms of the contract, as required under Illinois law. See Indus. Hard Chrome, Ltd. v. Hetran, Inc., 64 F. Supp. 2d 741, 745 (N.D. Ill. 1999).*fn2

In briefing, MacNeil maintains that its allegations regarding nonpayment to Cannon pertain to a different set of floor mats, which were supplied by Cannon after the floor mats at issue in MacNeil's breach of contract claim. MacNeil may be correct, but its complaint does not adequately differentiate between the different sets of floor mats it describes in its ...


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