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Kelly v. Lee County R.V. Sales Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

November 12, 2019

GERALDINE KELLY, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE COUNTY R.V. SALES COMPANY, a Florida Corporation d/b/a NORTH TRAIL RV CENTER, a Florida Domestic Profit Corporation, and NEWMAR CORPORATION, a Foreign Corporation for Profit, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES D. WHITTEMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are Defendant Newmar's Motion for Summary Final Judgment (Dkt. 36), Plaintiffs Response (Dkt. 48), and Defendant Newmar's Reply (Dkt. 57); and Defendant Lee County RV Sales Company's Motion for Final Summary [Judgment] (Dkt. 42), Plaintiffs Response (Dkt. 52), and Defendant [Lee County R.V. Sales Company's] Reply (Dkt. 58). Upon consideration, Defendants' motions (Dkts. 36, 42) are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND AND UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS

         Plaintiff Geraldine Kelly brought this action alleging a breach of warranty claim against Defendants Lee County R.V. Sales Company d/b/a North Trail RV Center ("North Trail") and Newmar Corporation ("Newmar"). She alleges that Defendants provided her with certain warranties when she purchased a recreational vehicle, and that Defendants breached these warranties by failing to repair defects in the vehicle after receiving notice of them.

         Plaintiffs Third Amended Complaint alleges four counts: (1) "Breach of Obligations Under the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Improvement Act Against Seller," (2) "Breach of Obligations Under the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Improvement Act Against Manufacturer," (3) "Violation of Statutory Warranty Under Sec. 320.835, Fla. Stat, Against Seller," and (4) "Violation of Statutory Warranty Under Sec. 320.835, Fla. Stat., Against Manufacturer." (Dkt. 29, Third Am. Comp.).

         The following material facts are undisputed. On June 4, 2014, Kelly went to North Trail, a dealership in Fort Myers, to purchase a 2014 Newmar Canyon Star recreational vehicle (the "RV") that she had ordered in February of that year. (Dkt. 41-1, G. Kelly Dep. Part 1, at 35:25 - 36:1-3). She noticed that it did not include a rear awning and requested that North Trail have one installed. (Id. at 39:10-11; 40:11-16).

         Kelly and North Trail proceeded with the purchase that day. The sale was made pursuant to a written purchase contract. (Id. at 37:4-7, 38:17-19). When she signed the contract, North Trail informed her that the RV came with Newmar's twelve-month limited warranty, which would expire on June 3, 2015. (Id. at 46:22-25; 47:1-5; 51:12-17; Dkt. 41-3, Exh. 4, p. 9). In addition to signing the purchase contract, North Trail and Kelly signed a pre-delivery and acceptance declaration form. (Dkt. 41-1 at 55:7-17; Dkt. 41-3, Exh. 5, p. 10). This form, also referred to as the pre-delivery inspection form, reflects that North Trail reviewed and explained to Kelly's satisfaction, the various components, systems and features of the RV. (Dkt. 41-1 at 53:2-5; 54:8-10; 55:7-11). Kelly did not have any questions about the RV. (Id. at 53:18-21; 60:1-4).

         Kelly testified that prior to the sale of the RV she had never spoken to anyone from Newmar. (Id. at 60:25 - 61:1-3). And at the time of the sale, no one from Newmar was present. (Id. at 61:8-11; 62:5-9).[1]

         A few weeks after the purchase, after the rear awning was installed, Kelly went back to North Trail and took possession of the RV. (Dkt. 41-1 at 58:12-14; Dkt. 41-2 at 77:13-23). At that time, it had 1, 314 miles on the odometer. (Dkt. 41-1 at 44:14-19). When she picked up the RV and drove it home, she did not notice any problems. (Dkt. 41-2 at 77:24-25 - 78:1-2).

         Between the time she purchased the RV and the time she filed suit, the RV underwent numerous repairs and was subject to several manufacturer's recalls. (Dkt. 41-1 at 19:3; 41:14-18; 75:9; Dkt. 41-2 at 93:20-22; 109:7-8). Repairs were made during her first year of warranty coverage. (Id.). Some of these repairs were made to the RV's slide-out rooms and windshield. (Dkt. 41-2 at 121:3-6). In October 2014, a repair was made to the driver's side slide at an unauthorized repair facility. (Id. at 152:14-21). And in November 2014, North Trail made a repair to the bedroom side slide. (Id. at 120:13-17; 152:1-5). As for the windshield, she testified that sometime during her first year of ownership it "fell out" and that North Trail came to her home and resecured the window and its molding. (Id. at 140:19-24; 141:1-15). Approximately two to three years later, the windshield's outside molding started to come loose, and North Trail again made the repair. (Id. at 142:8-19).

         Kelly did not have to pay for any of the repairs made during her first year of ownership because they fell under Newmar's warranty's coverage. (Dkt. 41-1 at 49:14-18; 78:13-21; 79:6-14; Dkt. 41-2 at 130:13-19). And although the RV continued to need repairs and routine maintenance after the first year, some repairs were performed without charge. (Dkt. 50-2, p. 18).

         Despite these post-warranty repairs, she testified that she received the benefits of Newmar's limited warranty coverage for the first twelve months of her ownership. (Dkt. 41-2 at 116:19-23).[2]

         When asked about the remaining defects in the RV, Kelly stated that the two slide-out rooms and front windshield remain defective. (Id. at 140:10-15; 154:24-25).[3] And when asked during her deposition if everything else with the RV was working properly, Kelly answered, "Yes." (Id. at 155:4-8).

         When asked how the slides were defective, she testified, "[o]nce you get them out, you can't get them in. And the other one sounds like - when it starts to go out, it makes so much noise you think it's going to break so you don't put it out. It vibrates the whole motor home." (Id. at 138:21-25; 139:1-2). As for the windshield, Kelly testified that in July 2018, she noticed that it was "coming out." (Id. at 139:20-24; 140:6). Since then, the RV has remained parked at her house, with an accrued mileage of approximately 37, 000. (Dkt. 41-1 at 73:7-21; Dkt. 41-2 at 115:1-3). She has not taken the RV to any repair facility to have her concerns addressed, corrected, serviced, or repaired. (Dkt. 41-2 at 138:18-20; 139:25; 140:1-9).

         According to Kelly, she did not retain an expert, nor does she consider herself one. (Dkt. 41-1 at 18:15-17). Moreover, she testified that she possesses no educational training or expertise in the monetary appraisal of RVs, has never been trained on valuing or appraising RVs, does not know how to appraise the value of RVs, with or without defects, has no technical or mechanical training on RVs, does not know how to diagnose or repair RVs, does not know how to appraise or value the cost of repairs to RVs, has never repaired RVs, has never done any appraisal on the subject RV, and has never taken the subject RV to anyone to have its monetary value appraised, or to have it inspected. (Id. at 13:18-25 - 16:1-11).

         Based on these facts, both Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment.

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A genuine factual dispute exists only if a reasonable fact-finder 'could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [non-movant] is entitled to a verdict."' Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley, 694 F.3d 1294, 1300 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). A fact is material if it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997). All facts are viewed and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380(2007).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there are no genuine disputes of material fact. Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., Inc., 351 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings through the use of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file to designate facts showing a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. A court will not weigh the evidence or make findings of fact. Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 924 (11th Cir. 2003). Rather, a court's role is limited to deciding whether there is sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable juror could find for the non-moving party. See id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Counts I and II: Magnuson Moss Warranty Act

         The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act ("MMWA") is a federal warranty enforcement statute. It does not create or require any warranties from manufacturers or dealers. 15. U.S.C. § 2302(2)(b) ("[N]othing in this chapter . . . shall be deemed . . . [to] require a consumer product or any of its components to be warranted."). "[E]xcept in the specific instances in which Magnuson-Moss expressly prescribes a regulating rule, the Act calls for the application of state written and implied warranty law, not the creation of additional federal law." Walsh v. Ford Motor Co., 807 F.2d 1000, 1012 (D.C. Cir. 1986). A consumer may file a claim for a breach of warranty in conjunction with the MMWA, if a product manufacturer or dealer issues a warranty and fails to honor its terms. Bailey v. Monaco Coach Corp., 350 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1043 (N.D.Ga. 2004), affd 168 Fed.Appx. 893 (11th Cir. 2006) (finding that absent an actionable warranty claim, there can be no violation of the MMWA). In sum, a breach of warranty claim under the MMWA is dependent upon a viable underlying state breach of warranty claim. Burns v. Winnebago, No. 8:ll-CV-354-T-24, 2012 WL 171088, at *4 (M, D. Fla. Jan. 20, 2012), affd 492 Fed.Appx. 44, 49 (11th Cir. 2012) (affirming summary judgment on a recreational vehicle MMWA claim because the underlying breach of warranty claim failed).

         Kelly brings claims under the MMWA against each Defendant for alleged breaches of various express and implied warranties made pursuant to her purchase of the RV. Because the purchase occurred in Florida, Florida substantive law applies. See Walsh, 807 F.2d at 1012.

         I. MMWA Against North Trail (Count I)

         In her Third Amended Complaint, Kelly alleges that North Trail made express and implied warranties on the RV that it failed to honor. Specifically, she alleges that North Trail "completed a pre-delivery inspection form(s)," which "constituted] a 'written warranty' under the terms and definitions of [the MMWA]." (Dkt. 29 ¶ 9(A)). Based on this form, she alleges North Trail "impliedly warranted that said recreational vehicle was of merchantable quality, which warranty it breached" (Id. ¶ (B)). As a result of the breach, she "demands judgment for damages and/or refund together with incidental and consequential damages," as well as attorney's fees. (Id. ΒΆ 12). From these allegations, it appears that Kelly's MMWA claim is based on the ...


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