United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
KRISTA COSTA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC., Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO.
SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Costa has sued Nissan North America, Inc.
(“Nissan”) for violating chapter 93A of the
Massachusetts General Laws, as well as state and federal
implied warranty laws, by selling her a Nissan Altima with
what she alleges is a defective transmission. Nissan has
moved to dismiss Costa's complaint in its entirety,
contending she has not stated a plausible legal claim.
Because the complaint provides fair notice to Nissan and
contains ample facts that, if true, would entitle Costa to
relief, Nissan's motion is DENIED.
short synopsis of Costa's allegations is necessary for
present purposes. Costa purchased a new 2014 Nissan Altima in
October 2014. Doc. No. 1 ¶ 7. The car features a
continuously variable automatic transmission
(“CVT”), which Nissan “promoted . . . as a
major selling point” that would enhance the
vehicle's “smoothness, ” “fluid-feeling
performance, ” “drivability and
responsiveness.” Id. ¶¶ 1, 14-18.
Notwithstanding these promised benefits, Costa alleges that
she, like other drivers of 2013 and 2014 Altimas,
“frequently experienced . . . shaking of the vehicle at
seemingly random moments during operation.”
Id. ¶ 7. Finally, “while [Costa was]
operating her vehicle” in June 2018, “the
transmission failed.” Id. Although “she
was able to idle into a parking spot without serious
incident, ” she had to “pa[y] to have her vehicle
towed” to the dealer, where she “was informed she
needed to have her CVT replaced” at a cost of more than
$3, 500. Id.
to Costa, her experience is not unique. She alleges that
defective CVTs have caused “shuddering, hesitation,
stalling, unusual noises, and ultimately, premature
transmission failure” for many owners and operators of
2013 and 2014 Altimas, posing “a significant safety
risk” and requiring costly repairs. Id.
¶¶ 1-2, 10-13. She further alleges that Nissan knew
of the problem, failed to disclose or remedy it, and instead
engaged in misleading promotion of the subject vehicles.
Id. ¶¶ 19-30. This conduct, Costa claims,
violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act
(“Chapter 93A”), the implied warranty of
merchantability under Massachusetts law, and the federal
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Id. ¶¶ 39-86.
Court has jurisdiction over Costa's claims pursuant to
the Class Action Fairness Act based on diversity of
citizenship and the aggregate amount in controversy. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(d); Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.II. LEGAL
STANDARD To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6), a complaint “must provide fair notice to the
defendants and state a facially plausible legal claim.”
Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12
(1st Cir. 2011). In other words, the complaint must
“contain 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) (quotation marks omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a).
“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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation
omitted). “Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at
679 (citation omitted).
motion to dismiss is meritless. Only a brief discussion is
Chapter 93A Claim Nissan first accuses Costa of
“describ[ing] vague symptoms supposedly related to
transmission performance, [but] not identify[ing] any
particular defect in the vehicle's design, workmanship or
materials.” Doc. No. 21 at 5. According to Nissan,
Costa has neither alleged “any particular
misrepresentation” nor “identif[ied] any legally
enforceable standard that the CVT components did not
meet.” Id. at 8-9.
state a Chapter 93A claim, a plaintiff must allege
“that a deceptive act or practice by the defendant
caused an injury or loss suffered by” the plaintiff.
Vass v. Blue Diamond Growers, No. 14-13610-IT, 2016
WL 1275030, at *1 (D. Mass. Mar. 31, 2016); see Shaulis
v. Nordstrom, Inc., 865 F.3d 1, 10 (1st Cir. 2017)
(explaining that a viable Chapter 93A claim requires
“identifiable harm” such as “real economic
damages, as opposed to some speculative harm”
(quotation marks omitted)). “[A] bare assertion that a
defendant, while representing the opposite, has knowingly
manufactured and sold a product that is defective . . . does
not suffice to state a viable claim” under Chapter 93A.
Iannacchino v. Ford Motor Co., 888 N.E.2d 879, 888
Costa has described how the alleged CVT defect manifested
itself in reality both generally, e.g., Doc. No. 1
¶ 1, and in her own car while she operated it
between October 2014 and June 2018, id. ¶ 7.
She also has plainly asserted that the alleged defect
culminated in a total transmission failure, which occurred
while she was driving and required the costly replacement of
her CVT. Id. In other words, Costa has not
simply identified a theoretical injury which she speculates
could arise due to an unspecified “defect, ” like
the plaintiffs in Iannacchino. She alleges that she
personally experienced recurrent safety-related performance
problems, actual property damage, and real economic harm.
Costa has identified particular promotional statements made
by Nissan which, she claims, were deceptive in light of the
problems she says resulted from the allegedly defective
CVTs-problems she states were known to Nissan before Costa
purchased her car. E.g., id. ¶ 15.
Contrary to Nissan's urging, no more is required of Costa
at the pleading stage. See Baranco v. Ford Motor
Co., 294 F.Supp.3d 950, 962-63 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (finding
Iannacchino did not require dismissal of
non-conclusory defect claims “not expressly tied to a
particular regulatory violation”); Falk v. Nissan
N. Am., Inc., No. 17-4871-HSG, 2018 WL 2234303, at *9
(N.D. Cal. May 16, 2018) (concluding Iannacchino did
not require dismissal of Chapter 93A claim where
“transmission problems . . . actually manifested in
[plaintiff's] vehicle”); cf. Iannacchino,
888 N.E.2d at 888 (limiting its analysis to cases in which
plaintiffs had suffered no personal injury or property
Costa's state and federal warranty claims, Nissan
emphasizes Costa's admission that she drove her Altima
for nearly four years (and, apparently, for tens of thousands
of miles) without serious incident. Doc. No. 21 at 10-12.
Suggesting that any “issues [Costa] was experiencing
with her transmission . . . clearly did not prevent her from
using the vehicle for ...