Sanyal v. Toyota Motor North America, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re Motion for a More Definite Statement. Signed by District Judge James C. Cacheris on 9/30/14. (klau, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
TOYOTA MOTOR NORTH AMERICA,
M E M O R A N D U M
O P I N I O N
This matter is before the Court on Defendants Toyota
Motor North America, Inc., Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.,
Toyota Motor Manufacturing California, Inc., Toyota
Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering &
Manufacturing North America, Inc.’s (“Defendants”) Motion for a
More Definite Statement [Dkt. 8] and accompanying Memorandum in
Support [Dkt. 9].
For the following reasons, the Court will
grant Defendants’ Motion.
On July 10, 2012 Satyajit Sanyal (“Plaintiff” or
“Sanyal”) was driving to work in his Toyota Camry when he
crashed head-on into a tree.
[hereinafter Compl.] ¶ 7.)
(Notice of Removal [Dkt. 1], Ex. 1
The front end of the Camry was
significantly damaged, but the airbags had not deployed.
Sanyal was transported by ambulance to Reston Hospital,
where he was admitted to the Critical Care Unit for two days
before his release on July 12, 2012.
(Id. ¶¶ 8(j), 9.)
Sanyal alleges that he “faced life-threatening and
permanent physical and personal injuries in this incident due to
failure in development of any of the driver side airbags despite
the significant damaging impact and strong forces involved[.]”
(Id. ¶ 7.)
As a “direct and proximate result” of the failure of
the airbags to deploy, Sanyal alleges that he suffered “serious
and permanent head injuries [sic] aggravating Seizure
(Id. ¶ 13.)
He is now “dependent on costly
prescription medications” and “has to undergo costly diagnostic
testing such as EEG and CT Scans, preventative care and medical
treatment for life-time or till [sic] cured.”
(Id. ¶ 13.)
result of his injuries, Sanyal alleges that he has had to work
at reduced wages and is unable to meet many of his financial
He also contends he is in the
process of looking for a new job, as his injuries do not permit
him to continue working in his previous position as an
information technology professional.
(Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.)
Sanyal originally filed this action on July 30, 2014
in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County.
[Dkt. 1] ¶ 1.)
He seeks damages for:
(Notice of Removal
(a) Medical, diagnostic testing and related
expenses, past, present and future.
(b) Lost wages in past, continuing and
(c) Permanent loss of wage earning capacity
equivalent to time of incident in 2012.
(d) Physical pain and emotional suffering.
(e) Permanent damage to health and the
resulting anguish, hardship and expenses.
(f) Future life care, assisted living and
(g) Other damages as allowed.
(Compl. ¶ 23.)
In total, he is requesting $5,000,000.00 in
(Id. ¶ 27.)
The complaint does not specifically
detail any causes of action.
Defendants removed to this Court shortly after service
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
(Notice of Removal ¶¶
Defendants then filed the instant motion, seeking to
have the Court order Sanyal to amend his complaint so that it
“(1) identifies with particularity whether the Defendants
breached any duty(ies) allegedly owed to Plaintiff or breached
any alleged warranty(ies); and (2) specifies which of the five
Defendants named in the Complaint owed which alleged duty(ies)
or breached which alleged warranty(ies).”
Supp.[Dkt. 9] at 5.)
(Defs.’ Mem. in
Defendants have waived oral argument on this motion.
Having been fully briefed, Defendants’ motion is now before the
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) allows a party
to 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
are “designed to strike at unintelligibility rather than simple
want of detail.”
Khair v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., No.
1:10cv410, 2010 WL 2486430, at *2 (E.D. Va. June 14, 2010)
(citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).
motion is not a substitute for the discovery process, and where
the information sought by the movant is available or properly
sought through discovery, the motion should be denied.”
Frederick v. Koziol, 727 F. Supp. 1019, 1020-21 (E.D. Va. 1990)
A Rule 12(e) motion must be made before any responsive
pleading is filed and “must point out the defects complained of
and the details desired.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).
Mindful of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(e)’s
mandate to construe pleadings so as to do justice and the fact
that Sanyal is proceeding pro se, the Court considers Sanyal’s
Rule 8 requires a pleading to contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
This requirement means a
plaintiff must (1) state the legal theory on which he is
proceeding (negligence, breach of warranty, etc.) and (2) allege
facts that would “allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
attempting to create such an inference for the court, a
plaintiff must do more than put forth “an unadorned, thedefendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”
Id. at 678 (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
serves four major functions: “(1) giving notice of the nature of
a claim or defense; (2) stating the facts each party believes to
exist; (3) narrowing the issues that must be litigated; and (4)
providing a means for speedy disposition of sham claims and
5 Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R.
Miller, & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1202
(3d ed. 2008).
Of these four functions, the notice function has
emerged as the most important of Rule 8’s purposes.
Rule 8 also requires the pleading
sought, which may include relief in
relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(3).
complaint. (See Notice of Removal,
to set out “a demand for the relief
the alternative or different types of
Sanyal has met this standard in his
Ex. 1 ¶¶ 23, 27.)
The legal substance of Sanyal’s complaint is contained
in four paragraphs at the end of the complaint.
24. The Defendants together with groups of
located in the United States of America and
globally, are engaged in the business of
automobiles and motor vehicles, including
but not limited to Toyota Camry, Model Year
25. The allegations contained herein are
asserted against the Defendants, jointly,
severally, or in the alternative and arise,
at least in part, out of the same series of
occurrences relating to Defendants [sic]
manufacture, assemble, use, procure [sic],
outsource, design, research & development,
engineering, marketing, distribution, sale,
export and importation of the parts used in
the TOYOTA CAMRY (Model year 2011; VIN
Number 4T1BF3EK9BU658720), purchased by the
located in Virginia.
Defendants are part of the same corporate
family of companies, and the allegations
herein arise at least in part from the
Defendants [sic] collective activities.
27. The Plaintiff alleges that his physical
aggravating health conditions, damages to
health, loss of life’s many enjoyments,
emotional distress and harms caused due to
the failure of airbags to deploy during a
fatal motor vehicle crash incident of July
10, 2012 are immense and irrevocable.
(Compl. ¶¶ 24-27.)
As noted previously, he requests damages for
personal injury, past and future lost wages, future medical and
living expenses, and other damages as allowed by law.
As best the Court can discern, these four paragraphs
represent the heart of Sanyal’s complaint.
fails to allege any legal cause of action.
Thus, it is unclear
whether he seeks to proceed on a negligence theory, a breach of
an express or implied warranty, or all three.
paragraph that could possibly state such causes of action is
paragraph 25, which is a kitchen sink of allegations.
to plead actionable negligence under Virginia law, 2 Sanyal must
allege the “existence of a legal duty, a breach of the duty, and
proximate causation resulting in damage.”
Atrium Unit Owners
Ass'n v. King, 585 S.E.2d 545, 548 (Va. 2003).
does detail the injuries he has sustained, he does not allege
that any of the five defendants have breached a legal duty owed
to him nor that a resulting breach caused his injuries.
Similarly, Sanyal has not made any allegations sufficient to
make out a claim for breach of an express or implied warranty.
A federal district court sitting in diversity applies the choice-of-law
rules of the state in which it sits. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co.,
313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941). Virginia follows the “place of the wrong” in
determining the substantive rights of the parties. Falos v. Tool Am. Inc.,
No. 109435, 1992 WL 884650, at *1 (Va. Cir. Ct. Apr. 29, 1992). The “place
of the wrong” has generally been defined as the state where the last event
necessary to create liability for an alleged tort takes place. Id. As the
accident took place in Virginia, thus creating the last event giving rise to
potential liability, Virginia substantive law applies to this action.
“Under Virginia law, an essential element of a cause of action
for breach of warranty is an allegation of the fact of the
Christopher v. Cavallo, 662 F.2d 1082, 1083 (4th Cir.
Sanyal has not alleged the existence of a warranty, and,
consequently, has not alleged the breach of a warranty.
Even if this Court were to assume that Sanyal was
asserting a products liability claim sounding in both negligence
and breach of warranty, it is unclear whether Sanyal is
proceeding with those claims against all named defendants.
defendants are distinct corporate entities with different
operating functions, including automobile manufacturing, sales,
marketing and distribution, certain aspects of automotive
component testing, public relations, market research, and
(Def.’s Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 9] at 2.)
Thus, the individual Defendants are without notice as to which
claims apply to them.
The lack of any specific legal theories and the
blanket allegations against varied entities deprive Defendants
of the notice of the claims against them to which they are
entitled under Rule 8.
Rather than attempt to guess what legal
theories Sanyal asserts against which defendant, the Court
believes it proper to have Sanyal amend his complaint to (1)
state a cause of action (or causes of action) in keeping with
the requirements of Virginia law and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8 and (2) identify which claims he is asserting
against which defendants.
Should Sanyal fail to comply with
this Court’s order, this Court may strike the pleading, which,
since the document in question is the complaint, would end his
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant
Defendants’ Motion for a More Definite Statement.
appropriate order will issue.
September 30, 2014
James C. Cacheris
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
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