Valencia et al v. Volkswagen Group of America Inc et al

Filing 43

ORDER by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. Denying 22 Motion to Strike. (ndrS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/11/2015)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 ERNESTO VALENCIA, et al., 7 Case No. 15-cv-00887-HSG Plaintiffs, 8 ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE v. 9 VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA INC, et al., 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Re: Dkt. No. 22 Defendants. 12 This is a putative class action in which Plaintiffs Ernesto Valencia, Adelina Duncan, 13 Lorenzo Sava, Michelle Savage, Margarito De La Rosa, and Lenelyn De La Rosa allege that their 14 2009 to 2012 model year Volkswagen Routan minivans were manufactured with defective brake 15 pads. Plaintiffs assert claims against Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (“Volkswagen”) under 16 California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and California’s Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), 17 Breach of Implied Warranty pursuant to the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty and the 18 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Acts, as well as Unjust Enrichment. Volkswagen moved to strike the 19 nationwide class action allegations on April 27, 2015. Dkt. No. 22 (“Mot.”). Plaintiffs opposed 20 that motion on May 27, 2015, Dkt. No. 37 (“Opp.”), and Volkswagen filed a reply on June 15, 21 2015, Dkt. No. 38 (“Reply”). 22 23 The Court has carefully considered the arguments offered by the parties and, for the reasons set forth below, DENIES Volkswagen’s motion to strike.1 24 I. LEGAL STANDARD Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court may strike “from 25 26 27 28 1 The Court does not reach the merits of Volkswagen’s motion to strike Plaintiffs’ claim under the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act as that cause of action was dismissed pursuant to Volkswagen’s motion to dismiss. See Dkt. No. 42. 1 any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous 2 matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). “The function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the 3 expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with 4 those issues prior to trial . . . .” Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 5 2010) (citation omitted). Motions to strike are generally not granted unless it is clear that the 6 matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation. See 7 Colaprico v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 758 F. Supp. 1335, 1339 (N.D. Cal. 1991). 8 9 II. DISCUSSION Plaintiffs are California residents seeking to recover under California’s consumer protection laws while simultaneously representing a class of citizens that reside in other states. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Volkswagen asks the Court to strike Plaintiffs’ nationwide class allegations, citing Mazza v. 12 American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 666 F.3d 581 (9th Cir. 2012). In essence, Volkswagen argues 13 that Mazza stands for the proposition that California’s consumer protection laws materially differ 14 from the laws of all other states in all cases. Mot. at 1 (characterizing Mazza as holding that 15 “where a trial court will have to apply different laws of the fifty states, class certification is not 16 appropriate”). 17 The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that Volkswagen significantly overreads Mazza. Mazza 18 did not establish “such a bright-line rule,” but rather performed a detailed choice-of-law analysis 19 and determined that “in that case California law should not be applied to non-California 20 residents.” Won Kyung Hwang v. Ohso Clean, Inc., 12-cv-06355-JCS, 2013 WL 1632697, at *21 21 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 16, 2013) (emphasis in original). “Mazza did not purport to hold that nationwide 22 classes are, as a matter of law, uncertifiable under California’s consumer protection laws.” 23 Forcellati v. Hyland’s Inc., 876 F. Supp. 2d 1155, 1159 (C.D. Cal. 2012). Whether California law 24 differs from the laws of other states in a way that is material to this litigation is not a proper 25 inquiry at the pleading stage. Such a deeply factual inquiry is more appropriately addressed at the 26 class certification stage, which was, incidentally, the posture of the Mazza action when it was 27 appealed to the Ninth Circuit. See Clancy v. The Bromley Tea Co., No. 12-cv-03003-JST, 2013 28 WL 4081632, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2013) (“Rather, such a fact-heavy inquiry should occur 2 1 during the class certification stage, after discovery”); Donahue v. Apple, Inc., 871 F. Supp. 2d 913, 2 922 (N.D. Cal. 2012); In re Clorox Consumer Litigation, 894 F. Supp. 2d 1224, 1237 (N.D. Cal. 3 2012) (“Since the parties have yet to develop a factual record, it is unclear whether applying 4 different state consumer protection statutes could have a material impact on the viability of 5 Plaintiffs claims”); Forcellati, 876 F. Supp. 2d at 1159 (“[I]t would be premature to speculate 6 about whether the difference in various states’ consumer protection laws are material in this 7 case.”).2 8 III. For the foregoing reasons, Volkswagen’s motion to strike the nationwide class allegations 9 10 contained in the FAC is DENIED. IT IS SO ORDERED. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 CONCLUSION Dated: 8/11/2015 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 The Court also agrees that Rule 23(d)(4) is an inappropriate mechanism to test whether the class may be certified at this early stage of the litigation. See Beauperthuy v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc., No. 06-cv-0715-SC, 2006 WL 3422198, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 28, 2006) (“It would be improper to allow Defendants to slip through the backdoor what is essentially an opposition to a motion for class certification before Plaintiffs have made such a motion and when discovery on the issue is still on-going.”). 3

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