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Dickerson v. Nwan Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 7, 2018

Paul Dickerson and Ma Riza Dickerson, Plaintiffs,
NWAN Incorporated and Superstition Springs MID LLC, Defendants.



         Plaintiffs Paul and Ma Riza Dickerson purchased a Dodge Ram truck from Defendant Superstition Springs MID LLC, covered by a limited warranty administered by Defendant NWAN Incorporated. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants voided the warranty in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA” or the “Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Docs. 31, 32. The motions are fully briefed (Docs. 41, 42), and oral argument will not aid the Court's decision. For reasons stated below, the Court will grant NWAN's motion and deny Superstition's.

         I. Background.

         Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges that on October 3, 2015, they purchased a 2007 Dodge Ram truck from Superstition. Doc. 16 ¶ 14. They were induced to make the purchase and pay a higher price than they otherwise would have because Superstition provided a “Warranty Forever” limited powertrain warranty (the “Warranty”). Id. ¶¶ 16-17. When Plaintiffs purchased the vehicle, they received a one-page declaration and a one-page “Acknowledgment of Service Requirements” regarding the Warranty. Id. ¶¶ 18, 35; Doc. 16-1 at 2, 14. Both documents identify Ma Riza Dickerson as the customer and Superstition as the selling dealership. Doc. 16-1 at 2, 14. Paul Dickerson and an authorized Superstition representative signed both documents. Id.; Doc. 16 ¶¶ 18, 35. The Declaration contains a section titled “Maintenance Requirements, ” which states:

YOU must have the SELLING DEALER perform all maintenance on YOUR VEHICLE as outlined in the General Provisions section of this LIMITED WARRANTY. In the event YOU choose to have YOUR VEHICLE serviced by a REPAIR FACILITY other than the SELLING DEALER, each service must be preauthorized by calling the ADMINISTRATOR in advance of the service being completed. Failure to preauthorize each service performed outside of the SELLING DEALER will void this LIMITED WARRANTY.

Doc. 16-1 at 2. The Declaration also contains a section titled “Repair Authorization” that states: “YOU are required to have the VEHICLE repaired at the dealership listed above or to obtain authorization prior to beginning any repairs to be performed by another REPAIR FACILITY.” Id. The Acknowledgment similarly provides: “In the event I choose to have my maintenance performed by a repair facility outside of the dealership listed above, I understand that each service visit must be pre-authorized prior to the service visit by contacting the Administrator at 1-800-810-8458.” Id. at 14.

         A few weeks after the purchase, Plaintiffs received additional information about the Warranty by mail. Doc. 16 ¶¶ 19-20; Doc. 16-1 at 4-7. The first page of the mailed information is identical to the Declaration. See Doc. 16-1 at 2, 4. The remaining three pages define certain terms used in the Declaration, and provide more detailed information about the Warranty. Doc. 16-1 at 5-7. “Selling Dealer” is defined as “the dealer identified on the [Declaration], which is obligated to perform under this [Warranty].” Doc. 16-1 at 5. “Administrator” means NWAN. Id.

         By a separate agreement between NWAN and Superstition, NWAN agreed to administer the “Warranty Forever” warranties that Superstition provided to its customers. Doc. 16 ¶¶ 24, 26. That agreement provides that NWAN creates the forms provided to customers and processes customer claims and pre-authorizations, Superstition pays NWAN a fee, and NWAN reimburses Superstition for any covered repairs it performs. Id. ¶¶ 22, 25, 27.

         From the date of purchase through April 2016, Plaintiffs performed necessary non-covered maintenance and repairs on the truck at facilities other than Superstition, but did not seek pre-authorization. Id. ¶ 41. Mr. Dickerson, a retired mechanic, performed at least one repair on the truck himself. Id. In April 2016, Plaintiffs filed a claim with NWAN for transmission repairs covered by the Warranty. Id. ¶ 38. NWAN denied the claim “as the contract is voided for failure to follow the maintenance requirements of the agreement.” Id. ¶ 39; Doc. 16-1 at 16.

         Plaintiffs allege that the Warranty's preauthorization requirement “is burdensome and coercive and devised to effectively require that the dealer perform all maintenance and services.” Doc. 16 ¶ 34. Plaintiffs further assert that the requirement violates the MMWA's anti-tying provision, 15 U.S.C. § 2302(c). Id. ¶¶ 45-48. Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs bring a MMWA claim against NWAN and Superstition, and a claim for intentional interference with contract against NWAN. Id. ¶¶ 51-63.[1]

         II. Legal Standard.

         A successful motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) must show either that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege facts sufficient to support its theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A complaint that sets forth a cognizable legal theory will survive a motion to dismiss as long as it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         III. ...

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