Sanyal v. Toyota Motor North America, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by District Judge James C. Cacheris on 1/15/15. (gwalk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
TOYOTA MOTOR NORTH AMERICA,
INC. et al.,
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. (“TMA”), Toyota Motor Manufacturing
California, Inc. (“TMMCA”), Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., Toyota
Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering &
Manufacturing North America, Inc.’s (collectively “Defendants”)
Motion to Dismiss Counts Two and Four of the Amended Complaint.
[Dkt. 20]; TMA’s Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for
Summary Judgment [Dkt. 21]; and TMMCA’s Motion to Dismiss, or in
the alternative, for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 23].
following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss Counts Two and Four.
The Court will deny TMA’s and
TMMCA’s motions to dismiss and grant their motions for summary
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.
(Am. Compl. [Dkt. 15] ¶¶ 3-5.)
The front end of the Camry was significantly damaged, but the
airbags had not deployed.
(Id. ¶ 4.)
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,
(Id. ¶ 5.)
Sanyal originally filed this action on July 30, 2014
in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County.
[Dkt. 1] ¶ 1.)
(Notice of Removal
Defendants removed to this Court shortly after
service on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
Removal ¶¶ 2-17.)
Defendants then filed a motion requesting a
more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(e) [Dkt. 8], which this Court granted.
Order [Dkt. 14].)
Sanyal was given leave to amend his
He did so, alleging: negligence in the design
and manufacture of his Camry (“Count 1”); strict liability for
the defective design and manufacture of the Camry, plus failure
to warn of danger and failure to adequately inspect and test the
Camry (“Count 2”); breach of express and implied warranties of
merchantability (“Count 3”); “causation and damages” (“Count
Four”); and “wanton, reckless, malacious [sic] or intentionally
wrongful conduct in gross disregard for others’ rights” (“Count
(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36-40.)
Sanyal seeks damages in the amount
(Id. ¶ 41.)
All five defendants have moved to dismiss Counts Two
and Four, on grounds that neither count is a recognized cause of
action in Virginia.
(Defs.’ Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 20] at 3-4.)
TMMCA and TMA move for dismissal, or in the alternative, summary
judgment, because neither entity is a seller or manufacturer of
Toyota vehicles nor made any warranties regarding the Camry.
(TMA’s Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 22] at 4; TMMCA’s Mem. in Supp. [Dkt.
24] at 4.)
Sanyal has not filed any opposition.
briefed and argued, these motions are ripe for disposition.
II. Legal Standard
“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of a complaint[.]”
Republican Party of N.C. v.
Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).
The Supreme Court has stated that in order “[t]o survive a
motion to dismiss, a [c]omplaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’”
Aschcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
“A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
The issue in resolving such a motion is not
whether the non-movant will ultimately prevail, but whether the
non-movant is entitled to offer evidence to support his or her
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience
and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff’s complaint must
demand more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmedme accusation.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at
Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Hence, a pleading that
offers only “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S.
Nor will a complaint that tenders mere “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.”
556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.
Moreover, the plaintiff does not have to show a
likelihood of success on the merits.
Rather, the complaint must
merely allege – directly or indirectly – each element of a
“viable legal theory.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.
A. Counts Two and Four
Count Two of the amended complaint alleges that
“Defendants are strictly liable for placing into the stream of
commerce the 2011 Toyota Camry vehicle which was unreasonably
dangerous and defective in design, manufacture, lack of
warnings, instructions, and safety.”
(Am. Compl. ¶ 37(II).)
Virginia does not permit tort recovery on a strict-liability
theory in products liability cases.
Sensenbrenner v. Rust,
Orling & Neale, Architects, Inc., 374 S.E.2d 55, 57 n.4 (Va.
1988); see also Sykes v. Bayer Pharm. Corp., 548 F. Supp. 208,
214 (E.D. Va. 2008) (stating that Virginia only imposes strict
liability in cases that involve abnormally dangerous
As a matter of law, therefore, Sanyal cannot state
a viable claim for strict liability as to design and
manufacturing defects of his Toyota as well as Defendants’
alleged failure to warn.
Therefore, Count Two will be
Similarly, Count Four does not state a viable legal
In Count Four, Sanyal
readopt[s], reallege[s], and incorporate[s]
by reference all of the above allegations
contained in this Complaint and would allege
[a]sserted against [Defendants], herein as
complained above were the proximate cause or
proximate contributing cause of the injuries
of the Plaintiff.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 39.)
To the extent that Sanyal is asserting a
distinct cause of action, this count must be dismissed as to all
Proximate causation and damages are elements of
negligence, not stand-alone causes of action.
See McGuire v.
Hodges, 639 S.E.2d 284, 288 (Va. 20007) (stating the elements of
negligence are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Court will consider Count Four to the extent that it is
necessary to state a legal claim in Counts One, Three, and Five
(i.e., to allege the necessary elements of those causes of
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed
so as to do justice.”).
Therefore, Count Four will be dismissed
B. TMA and TMMCA’s Liability
TMA and TMMCA argue that they are not involved in the
design, development, manufacture, assembly, testing, or
inspection of vehicles, including the Camry at issue here.
(TMA’s Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 22] at 4; TMMCA’s Mem. in Supp.
[Dkt.24] at 4.)
Therefore, they seek to be dismissed from the
In support, each defendant attached an affidavit from one
of its executives to its memorandum in support of its motion to
(See TMA’s Mem. in Supp., Ex. 1; TMMCA’s Mem. in
Supp., Ex. 1.)
When considering a motion to dismiss,
“[o]rdinarily, a court may not consider any documents that are
outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein,
unless the motion is converted into one for summary judgment.”
Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 Fed. App’x 395, 396 (4th Cir.
There are exceptions to this rule.
Courts may properly
take judicial notice of matters of public record.
Pitt Cnty. Mem’l Hosp., 572 F. 3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009)
Courts may also consider “documents
attached to the complaint . . . as well as those attached to the
motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint
The affidavits in support of TMA’s and TMMCA’s motions
to dismiss cannot be considered in support of those motions
because they are not integral to the complaint nor are they
matters of public record.
Therefore, the motion to dismiss
these two defendants is denied.
TMA and TMMCA have moved in the
alternative for summary judgment.
At the motion hearing, Sanyal
contested TMA and TMMCA’s assertions that they were not involved
in the manufacture, design, or warranty related to his Toyota
In support, he pointed to TMA and TMMCA’s financial
Having considered the evidence, the Court finds that
there is no issue of material fact left for trial.
it will grant summary judgment and dismiss TMA and TMMCA from
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Counts Two and Four.
will deny TMA’s and TMMCA’s motions to dismiss and grant their
motions for summary judgment.
January 15, 2015
An appropriate order will issue.
James C. Cacheris
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
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