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Garick v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 30, 2018

RICHARD K. GARICK, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MERCEDES-BENZ USA, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Richard K. Garick filed a putative class-action Complaint in state court against Defendant Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, fraud and deceit, and breach of warranty claims arising out of Plaintiff's purchase of a defective Mercedes-Benz vehicle. Defendant removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to State Court [#11]. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         I. CAFA Standard

         Congress enacted CAFA “with the stated purpose of expanding the number of class actions that could be heard in federal court.” Pazol v. Tough Mudder Inc., 819 F.3d 548, 552 (1st Cir. 2016). “Congress effectuated that purpose ‘by imposing only a minimal diversity requirement, eliminating the statutory one-year time limit for removal, and providing for interlocutory appeal of a federal district court's remand order.'” Id. (quoting Amoche v. Guar. Trust Life Ins. Co., 556 F.3d 41, 47-48 (1st Cir. 2009)). CAFA provides, however, that federal courts only have jurisdiction over such civil actions when, in addition to other requirements not in dispute here, “the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). Removing defendants have the burden to prove that CAFA's “amount-in-controversy requirement has been met.” Pazol, 819 F.3d at 552. To do so, they “must show a ‘reasonable probability' that more than $5 million is in dispute.” Id. (quoting Amoche, 556 F.3d at 50). “That standard is ‘for all practical purposes identical to' the preponderance of the evidence standard.” Id. (quoting Amoche, 556 F.3d at 50).

         II. Background

         a. Allegations in Complaint

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint in Essex County Superior Court alleging the following. See State Court Record, Complaint (hereinafter “Compl.”) [#6]. In 2005, Plaintiff purchased a 2003 Mercedes-Benz 320C 4-matic wagon from a Mercedes-Benz USA authorized dealer. Id. ¶ 1. On March 24, 2006, Defendant issued a Dealer Technical Bulletin (“DTB”) to its authorized dealers that identified issues with the radiator and transmission systems in some Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges the “DTB acknowledged that certain Mercedes-Benz models equipped with a radiator manufactured and/or supplied by Valeo were defective.” Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff alleges that his 320C 4-matic wagon was equipped with one of the Valeo radiators at issue in the DTB. Id. ¶ 4.

         Plaintiff alleges that the radiator defect described in the DTB allows coolant to mix with and contaminate transmission fluid, causing extensive damage to the transmission and torque converter. Id. ¶ 5. This can damage the vehicle's drivetrain, requiring replacement of the transmission, torque converter, and radiator. Id. ¶ 6. It can also lead to “sudden and unexpected breakdowns and mechanical failures, ” creating a risk of accidents, injuries, and death. Id. ¶ 8.

         The DTB instructed dealers that “humming/buzzing noises or noticeable harsh engagement during gentle acceleration” may be caused by the defect, and that a glycol test for dealers to determine the appropriate repair “must be performed only if: (a) the vehicle was produced before 09/2003, (b) the radiator is manufactured by ‘Valeo', . . . [and] (c) [the] old crimping method used to assemble the radiator and tanks resembles [a figure in the DTB].” See Notice of Removal Ex. A pp. 20-29 [hereinafter (“DTB”)] [#1-1]. Defendant has not recalled the affected vehicles, has not offered free repairs or replacements to its customers, and has not reimbursed customers for costs incurred as a result of the defect. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.

         Plaintiff alleges that costs of repairing the defect and the damage it causes “can be exorbitant, ” and “consumers will be required to pay thousands of dollars.” Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff filed his Complaint as a putative class action “on behalf of himself and on behalf of all others similarly situated who own or lease certain defective model year 2004 or earlier Mercedes-Benz C-Class and CLK Class vehicles (‘Class Vehicles') designed, manufactured, distributed, sold and/or leased by defendant.” Id. ¶ 1 (emphasis added). Later, the Complaint defines the proposed class somewhat differently as: “All consumers who purchased or leased a model year 2004 or earlier C Class or CLK Class Mercedes-Benz vehicle.” Id. ¶ 25. “Plaintiff believes that there are thousands of Class members.” Id. ¶ 27. The Complaint seeks damages “in an amount to be determined at trial, ” as well as double or triple damages, and attorneys' fees. Id. ¶ 65.

         b. Defendant Removes to Federal Court

Defendant promptly removed the action to federal court. Defendant's Notice of Removal of Civil Action [#1] stated, in support of CAFA's amount-in-controversy requirement, that: (1) the Complaint sought double or treble damages; (2) Plaintiff made a pre-litigation $50 million demand for settlement; (3) roughly 385, 000 vehicles fit into the Complaint's definition of “Class Vehicles, ” meaning the $5 million threshold would be satisfied even if each putative class member is entitled to only $13; (4) the Complaint alleges “thousands of dollars” of damages per vehicle; (5) the requested injunctive relief would cause Defendant to suffer financial loss; and (6) the Complaint seeks attorneys' fees and costs. Id. at ¶ 16; see also Notice of Removal of Civil Action Ex. B, Declaration of Noah Yanowitz (“Yanowitz Decl.”) ¶ 1 [#1-2] (stating that Defendant's records show that at least 385, 000 model year 2005 and earlier C- and CLK-Class vehicles were sold or leased in the United States); Notice of Removal of Civil Action Ex. C, Chapter 93A Demand Letter[1] (“Demand Letter”) ¶ 1 [#1-2] (Plaintiff demanded $31, 600.00 for himself and $50 million for class members).

         c. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

         After the case was removed, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand to State Court [#11]. His sole argument in support of remand is that Defendant has failed to meet its burden to show that CAFA's ...


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