United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (Dkt. 13)
A. GOLDSMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Ford Motor
Company's motion to dismiss (Dkt. 13). Plaintiff Jon
Rivera has brought this action on behalf of himself and a
class of current and former owners of 2012-2015 Ford Focus
vehicles that were allegedly sold with defective evaporative
emission control (“EVAP”) systems. These
defective systems allegedly caused the vehicles to stall
while in a motion, a condition that Rivera alleges Ford was
aware of at the time of sale. For the reasons stated below,
the Court grants in part and denies in part Ford's
2013, Plaintiff John Rivera purchased a new 2013 Ford Focus
SE from Desoto Ford in Arcadia, Florida. Am. Compl. ¶ 15
(Dkt. 12). In October 2016, nearly three and a half years
after his purchase, Rivera began experiencing erratic idling
in his vehicle. Id. ¶ 17. This issue worsened;
in one incident, the vehicle began to stall while traveling
fifty miles per hour. Id. Rivera also noticed that
the vehicle's fuel gauge was erratic, with fuel levels
changing from a quarter tank full to three-quarters full in
an instant. Id. A repair technician at Charlotte
County Ford subsequently informed Rivera that his vehicle
required replacement of the fuel vapor valve, fuel tank, and
fuel pump. Id. at 18. After being quoted a repair
cost of approximately $1, 927.50, Rivera was informed that
the repairs would not be covered under the terms of
Ford's warranties. Id.
then went to Desoto Ford, the dealership where he purchased
the vehicle, and requested that the dealership repair the
vehicle under warranty. Id. ¶ 19. The
dealership informed Rivera that it was aware of a problem
with the Ford Focus's EVAP but that any repairs would not
be covered under the factory warranty. Id.
vehicle's EVAP is designed to limit fuel emissions,
produced in the fuel tank, from entering the atmosphere.
Id. ¶ 29. The vehicle is designed so that
vapors emitting from the fuel tank travel to a canister
containing charcoal. Id. ¶ 30. The charcoal
absorbs the fuel vapor for storage purposes. Id.
When the car is running, the fuel vapors stored in the
canister are funneled to the engine to be purged.
Id. ¶ 31. This prevents the fuel vapors from
being released as emissions. Id.
vehicle's purge valve, the part at issue here, regulates
how much fuel vapor enters the engine by opening or closing
as needed. Id. ¶ 32. An electronically-operated
solenoid, controlled by the vehicle's engine computer,
determines when the purge valve should allow fuel vapors to
enter the engine. Id. Generally, the solenoid opens
the purge valve when the vehicle is running and fully warmed
up. Id. When the engine is off, the purge valve is
shut, meaning no fuel vapors should enter the engine.
Id. When the purge valve becomes stuck in the open
position, like with Rivera's and the rest of the putative
class members' vehicles, suction is created when the
vehicle's engine is running. Id. ¶ 36. As a
result, in addition to fuel vapors, raw fuel is sucked
through the EVAP canister, through the purge valve, and
directly into the engine. Id. This raw fuel causes
the engines in the class vehicles to abruptly hesitate and
stall while driving. Id. Other putative class
members have reported loss of engine power when traveling in
excess of forty-five miles per hour. Id. ¶ 37.
In addition to the loss of engine power, Ford technicians
have determined that the purge valve has caused fuel tanks to
collapse due to raw fuel leaving the tank rapidly.
Id. ¶ 39.
light of Desoto Ford's statement regarding issues with
the purge valve, Rivera called Ford directly and requested a
repair under warranty. Id. ¶ 20. After
declining his request, Ford informed Rivera that he could
decline paying for repairs and wait to see if Ford decided to
issue a recall on the purge valves. Id. ¶ 20.
Rivera subsequently paid $226.14 to have his purge valve
fixed, but has not driven it since because he believes it is
not fit for regular and safe operation. Id. ¶
Ford's Knowledge of the Defective Purge Valve
alleges, “upon information and belief, ” that
Ford was aware of the EVAP defect through the following: (i)
Ford's own records of consumer complaints; (ii)
dealership repair records; (iii) records from the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”);
(iv) warranty and post-warranty claims; and (v) its own
internal Technical Service Bulletins (“TSB”).
Id. ¶ 41. As an example, Rivera alleges that
Ford issued a TSB to its authorized dealerships in March 2015
regarding inaccurate fuel gauge and inaccurate
distance-until-empty readings in the putative class
members' vehicles. Id. ¶ 42. In the TSB,
Ford told dealers to replace the purge valve, the evaporative
emission canister, the fuel tank, and/or the fuel pump module
if the consumer complained of an inaccurate fuel gauge or
inaccurate distance-until-empty reading. Id. ¶
43. Rivera also alleges that “[a]s experienced
manufactures [sic] Ford likely conducts tests on incoming
components, including the EVAP system, to verify the parts
are free from defect and align with Ford's
specifications.” Id. ¶ 44. Thus,
according to Rivera, “Ford knew or should have known
the EVAP system was defective.” Id.
also alleges that Ford should have learned of the defective
EVAP system “due to the sheer number of reports
received from dealerships.” Id. ¶ 45.
Ford received numerous reports from dealerships that
customers were experiencing issues with the EVAP system.
Id. These complaints ultimately led to the release
of the TSB. Id. Ford's customer relations
department also collects and analyzes field data, including
repair requests made at dealerships, technical reports
prepared by engineers, parts sales reports, and warranty
claims data. Id. Ford's warranty department also
analyzes data submitted by its dealerships in order to
identify trends in its vehicles. Id. ¶ 46. When
a repair is made under warranty, dealerships must provide
Ford with detailed documentation of the problem and the fix
employed to correct it. Id.
Rivera alleges that the NHTSA's office of defects
investigation has received complaints regarding the class
vehicles' EVAP systems. Id. ¶ 52. Rivera
lists six examples of these complaints, which were filed
between May 5, 2015 and July 31, 2016. Id.
issues the following warranties with each class vehicle: (i)
a new vehicle limited warranty; (ii) a powertrain warranty;
(iii) an emissions defect warranty; and (iv) an emissions
performance warranty. Id. ¶ 47. Under the new
vehicle limited warranty, Ford agrees to repair defects
reported within the earlier of 3 years or 36, 000 miles.
Id. ¶ 48. Under the powertrain warranty, Ford
agrees to repair defects affecting various powertrain
components within the earlier of 5 years or 60, 000 miles.
Id. ¶ 49. Federal law requires vehicle
manufacturers to supply a minimum 2 year or 24, 000 mile
emissions defect warranty, which covers any covered parts
that fail to function due to manufacturing errors, and a 2
year or 24, 000 mile emissions performance warranty, which
covers repairs necessitated due to a failed emissions test.
Id. ¶ 50. Finally, vehicle manufacturers must
also issue an 8 year or 80, 000 mile emissions defect
warranty on certain emission system parts. Id.
¶ 51. Rivera alleges that repairs associated with the
EVAP system should be included in these and other warranties.
Id. ¶¶ 48-51.
motion, Ford argues that the 8 year or 80, 000 mile emission
defect warranty on certain emission system parts and the 5
year or 60, 000 mile warranty on certain powertrain
components are not applicable. Def. Mot. at 6 (Dkt. 13). It
notes that the 8 year or 80, 000 mile warranty is, by its
terms, only applicable to repairs of the catalytic converter,
the electronic emissions control unit, and onboard emissions
diagnostic devices. See Warranty Guide, Ex. A to
Def. Mot., at 18 (Dkt. 13-1). The class vehicles' purge
valve is not listed. Id. It also is not listed in
the components covered by the 5 year or 60, 000 mile
warranty. Id. at 10-11.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept
as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. “In
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider the
complaint as well as . . . documents referenced in the
pleadings and central to plaintiff's claims.”
Knight v. Bank of Am., No. 16-11662, 2016 WL
6600041, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 8, 2016). Because the express
warranty is referenced in the pleadings and is central to
many of Rivera's claims, it will be considered in the