Judge: Virginia Keeny, Case: 22VECV01677, Date: 2023-03-09 Tentative Ruling



Case Number: 22VECV01677    Hearing Date: March 9, 2023    Dept: W

WESLEY CROCKETT v. TERRY YORK MOTOR CARS LTD, et al.

 

Defendant JAGUAR LAND ROVER NORTH AMERICA, LLC’s demurrer to the complaint

 

Date of Hearing:        March 9, 2023                                   Trial Date:       None set.  

Department:              W                                                        Case No.:        22VECV01677

 

Moving Party:            Defendant Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC

Responding Party:     No opposition.

Meet and Confer:      Attempted. (Cronin Decl. ¶¶2-4.)

 

BACKGROUND

 

Plaintiff alleges in 2021, Plaintiff purchased a 2018 Range Rover HSE from Defendants Terry York Motor Cars LTD, Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC, and Autonation, Inc.  Plaintiff claims when Plaintiff was driving the vehicle, a leak or spray from the coolant lines caused an explosion. Plaintiff further alleges prior to the explosion, the vehicle alert system failed to warn of the fire in the engine. As a result of the engine fire, Plaintiff suffered Tinnitus, severe emotional distress, smoke inhalation, and other bodily injuries. On October 20, 2022, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, asserting causes of action for (1) Strict Liability – Manufacturing Defect; (2) Strict Liability – Design Defect; (3) Negligence; (4) Breach of Express Warranty; and (5) Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability.

 

On December 19, 2022, Plaintiff dismissed Defendant Autonation.com.

 

On February 14, 2023, Jaguar Land Rover Woodland Hills fdba Terry York Motor Cars, Ltd. dba Land Rover Encino cross complained against Defendant Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC asserting causes of action for express indemnity, implied indemnity, apportionment of fault, and declaratory relief.

 

[Tentative] Ruling

 

Defendant Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC’s Demurrer is SUSTAINED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

 

ANALYSIS

 

Defendant Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC (“JLRNA”) demurs to Plaintiff Wesley Crockett’s complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff’s Fourth Cause of Action for Breach of Express Warranty and Plaintiff’s Fifth Cause of Action for Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability each fail to adequately state a cause of action. Specifically, Defendant demurs on the grounds the fourth cause of action fails to state the subject vehicle was purchased by Plaintiff as a “buyer” or “retail buyer” of a “new motor vehicle” or “consumer good” and the fifth cause of action fails to state JLRNA distributed or sold the used good (the subject vehicle) to Plaintiff.

 

A demurrer for sufficiency tests whether the complaint states a cause of action. (Hahn v. Mirda (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 740, 747.) When considering demurrers, courts read the allegations liberally and in context. In a demurrer proceeding, the defects must be apparent on the face of the pleading or via proper judicial notice. (Donabedian v. Mercury Ins. Co. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 968, 994; Weil & Brown, Civ. Pro. Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2011) ¶7:8.) “A demurrer tests the pleadings alone and not the evidence or other extrinsic matters. Therefore, it lies only where the defects appear on the face of the pleading or are judicially noticed (CCP §§ 430.30, 430.70). The only issue involved in a demurrer hearing is whether the complaint, as it stands, unconnected with extraneous matters, states a cause of action.” (Hahn, supra, 147 Cal.App.4th at 747.)  A complaint will be upheld against a demurrer if it pleads facts sufficient to place the defendant on notice of the issues sufficient to enable the defendant to prepare a defense.  (Doe v. City of Los Angeles (2007) 42 Cal.4th 531, 549-50.)

 

Fourth Cause of Action

 

Defendant first argues Plaintiff fails to allege that he is a “buyer.” A buyer means “any individual who buys consumer goods from a person engaged in the business of manufacturing, distributing, or selling consumer goods at retail.” (Civ. Code, § 1791.)  The court agrees. Plaintiff’s complaint fails to allege who Plaintiff purchased the vehicle from. Plaintiff’s allegations simply state they purchased the 2018 vehicle in 2021 and they relied on the Defendants’ advertising campaigns.

 

Defendant also argues the subject 2018 used vehicle is not a “New Motor Vehicle.” To state a claim for Breach of Express Warranty, Plaintiff is required to plead that he purchased a “new motor vehicle.” (Civ. Code § 1791; Civ. Code § 1793.22(e)(2); see Rodriguez v. FCA US, LLC (2022) 77 Cal.App.5th 209, 225; see also Johnson v. Ford Motor Co. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1191, 1211.)

 

A “new motor vehicle” includes “a dealer-owned vehicle and a ‘demonstrator’ or other motor vehicle sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty.”  (Civ. Code, § 1793.22(e)(2).)  The Rodriguez court “acknowledge[d] that in isolation the phrase ‘other motor vehicle sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty’ could arguably refer to any car sold with a manufacturer’s warranty still in force,” but it agreed “that context clearly requires a more narrow interpretation.”  (Rodriguez, supra, 77 Cal.App.5th at p. 220.)  The court noted that “the phrase appears in a definition of new motor vehicles,” strongly suggesting that “the Legislature did not intend the phrase to refer to used (i.e., previously sold) vehicles.”  (Ibid.)  The court also noted that “more importantly, the phrase is preceded by ‘a dealer-owned vehicle and demonstrator,’ which comprise a specific and narrow class of vehicles.”  (Ibid.)  The Rodriguez court therefore concluded that “the phrase ‘other motor vehicles sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty’ refers to cars sold with a full warranty, not to previously sold cars accompanied by some balance of the original warranty.”  (Id. at p. 225.) However, Rodriguez is currently under review by the Supreme Court and there is currently a split of authority.

 

In Jensen v. BMW of North America, Inc. (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 112, the court concluded that cars sold with a balance remaining on the manufacturer’s new motor vehicle warranty are included in the definition of “new motor vehicle.” (Id. at p. 123.)  The court determined that “the words of section 1793.22 are reasonably free from ambiguity” because “[t]he use of the word ‘or’ in the statute indicates ‘demonstrator’ and ‘other motor vehicle’ are intended as alternative or separate categories of ‘new motor vehicle’ if they are ‘sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty.’”  (Ibid.)  The court also considered the legislative history of the statute due to the “peculiar grammatical structure” of the section.  (Ibid.)  After reviewing the amendments to former section 1793.2, documents relating to those legislative proceedings, and the statutory scheme as a whole, the court “conclude[d] the plain meaning and the legislative intent are one and the same.”  (Ibid.

 

The court finds the reasoning and holding of Jensen more persuasive. However, the complaint does not allege whether the vehicle came with the remainder of the express warranties. As a result, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to support the 2018 Range Rover is a new motor vehicle.

 

Lastly, Defendant demurs to the complaint on the grounds Defendant is not a retailer of used goods. Defendant contends JLRNA does not engage in retail selling or distribution of used vehicles. The court agrees. The complaint fails to allege who sold Plaintiff the vehicle and as a result, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to establish that JLRNA is a distributor or retailer of the 2018 Range Rover.

 

Fifth Cause of Action

 

Defendant demurs to the fifth cause of action on the grounds JLRNA did not sell the subject vehicle to Plaintiff and did not provision Plaintiff with any warranties, express or implied, upon Plaintiff’s purchase of the subject vehicle “used” from a third party.

 

The Song-Beverly Act defines the implied warranties that accompany the sale of consumer goods, and it permits a buyer to bring an action for damages and other relief when the implied warranties are breached.  (See Civ. Code, §§ 1791.1, 1794.)  “[I]n the sale of used consumer goods, liability for breach of implied warranty lies with distributors and retailers, not the manufacturer, where there is no evidence the manufacturer played any role in the sale of the used car to plaintiff.”  (Nunez v. FCA US LLC (2021) 61 Cal.App.5th 385, 398.) 

 

The court sustains Defendant’s demurrer. As noted above, Plaintiff has not alleged Defendant JLRNA sold the subject vehicle or provided  Plaintiff with any warranties upon Plaintiff’s purchase of the subject Vehicle.

 

The demurrer is unopposed. Accordingly, Defendant’s Demurrer is SUSTAINED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.