United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 10, 2005.
THOMAS KERN and DEBRA KERN, Plaintiffs
NATIONAL R.V. INC., and GRUMBINE'S R.V. CENTER, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHRISTOPHER CONNER, District Judge
Presently before the court is defendants' motion for summary
judgment (Doc. 17) on the claims of plaintiffs Thomas and Debra
Kern (collectively, the "Kerns") for fraud, fraudulent
misrepresentation, and negligence, and alleged violations of the
Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law,
73 PA. STAT. ANN. §§ 201-1 to 201-9.3, the Pennsylvania
Automotive Industry Trade Practices Act, 37 PA. CODE §§ 301.1-.6,
and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission
Improvement Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2312. For the reasons that
follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
I. Statement of Facts*fn1
In June 2003 the Kerns went to defendant Grumbine's R.V. Center
("Grumbine's") in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to purchase a new
motor home. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 2, 5). The Kerns were shown a vehicle
manufactured by defendant National R.V., Inc. ("National"), which
was represented by a Grumbine's salesperson to be a "2001
Caribbean Motor Home." (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 10, 11.) The Kerns purchased the motor home for approximately $230,000, and took
possession of the vehicle on June 23, 2001. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15; Doc.
19, Ex. D at 53-54.)
Problems with the purchase arose shortly thereafter. Although
the Grumbine's salesperson and all of the documents signed by the
Kerns, including the purchase agreement, represented the vehicle
to be a 2001 model, the Kerns discovered that the motor home was
in fact a 2000 model. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 12, 13, 16, 21.) Further, the
motor home began experiencing mechanical difficulties. On June
26, 2001 only three days after taking possession of the vehicle
the Kerns returned to Grumbine's for the following repairs: a
cracked toilet valve was replaced; a loose cabinet fixture was
re-fastened; a kitchen drawer was readjusted; and missing
window-awning straps were installed. (Doc. 19, Ex. D at Attach.
2.) Two weeks later the Kerns had a non-operating gas strut
replaced and an improperly installed sofa repositioned. (Doc. 19,
Ex. D at Attach. 3.)
Unfortunately, the Kerns continued to experience problems with
the motor home. On August 25, 2001, Grumbine's made the following
repairs: the sofa frame was relocated; the "magnetic pickup" on
the ignition was reset to correct generator backfiring; and the
television was rewired to correct a problem with
reception.*fn2 (Doc. 19, Ex. D at Attach. 4.) The Kerns were
back at Grumbine's three months later for the following
additional repairs: the entrance door was adjusted because it was
opening while the vehicle was in transit; the steps were adjusted
because they were bending; a latch was placed on the bathroom
door because it was opening when the shower was in use; an outside electrical
receptacle was sealed because it was filling with water; a
cabinet partition was installed because items placed in the
cabinet were falling inside of the wall; the border in the
bathroom and "seamtape" in the bedroom were re-glued or replaced
because they were peeling from the walls; the fuel filling hose
was replaced because it was improperly installed and inhibiting
refueling; insulation in the engine compartment was re-fastened
because it was falling down; a battery control board was replaced
because it was providing inadequate chasis heat; and the "start
boost switch" was rewired because it was malfunctioning. (Doc.
19, Ex. D at Attach. 5.) Despite these repairs, the Kerns were
forced to return to Grumbine's in March 2002 to have a
malfunctioning fuel gauge and fuel-cap chain replaced, and again
in June 2002, to have a crack in the gel coating around the motor
examined.*fn3 (Doc. 19, Ex. D at Attach. 6.)
The above-captioned action was initially instituted in a
Pennsylvania state court in August 2004, and removed to this
court in October 2004. (See Doc. 1.) The complaint alleges
fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence, and alleged
violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and
Consumer Protection Law, 73 PA. STAT. ANN. §§ 201-1 to 201-9.3,
the Pennsylvania Automotive Industry Trade Practices Act, 37 PA.
CODE §§ 301.1-.6, and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade
Commission Improvement Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2312
("Magnuson-Moss"). (Doc. 18 ¶ 3; Doc. 20 ¶ 3.) It avers that the
motor home exhibited, and continues to exhibit, several problems and malfunctions that were
not properly repaired, that the Kerns purchased the motor home
based upon defendants' intentional misrepresentations that it was
a 2001 model, and that the Kerns would not have purchased the
motor home or would have paid substantially less for it had
they known that it was a 2000 model. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 14, 19, 20, 23,
24, 36, 37.)
Both defendants seek summary judgment on the negligence and
Magnuson-Moss Warranty claims. National also seeks summary
judgment on the fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, and
Automotive Industry Trade Practices Act claims. Briefing on the
issues concluded in September 2005*fn4 and the motion is now
ripe for disposition.
II. Standard of Review
"Summary judgment serves as a minimal but important hurdle for
litigants to overcome before presenting a claim to a jury."
Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa.
2004). Faced with such a motion, the adverse party must produce affirmative evidence, beyond the disputed
allegations of the pleadings, in support of the claim. FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986); Corneal v. Jackson Township,
313 F. Supp. 2d 457, 464 (M.D. Pa. 2003), aff'd, 94 Fed. Appx. 76 (3d Cir.
2004). "Such affirmative evidence regardless of whether it is
direct or circumstantial must amount to more than a scintilla,
but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a
preponderance." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32
(3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester,
891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)). Only if this burden is met
may the cause of action proceed. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see FED.
R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e).
The Magnuson-Moss Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301-2312, was enacted to
protect consumers and address concerns about manufacturers and
others that do not fulfill the obligations of their warranties.
See Harrison v. Nissan Motor Corp., 111 F.3d 343, 351 (3d
Cir. 1997). The Act provides relief for consumers "damaged by the
failure of a supplier, warrantor, or service contractor to comply
with any obligation under [the Act], or under a written warranty,
implied warranty, or service contract." 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(1);
see also Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors Am., Inc.,
357 F.3d 392, 402 (3d Cir. 2004). A violation of the act allows the
consumer to seek recovery of the purchase price of the product
plus attorney's fees and costs. See 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d); Suber
v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578, 589 n. 12 (3d Cir. 1997). In the matter sub judice, National provided an express
limited warranty covering "the structural components, plumbing,
air conditioning/heating, and electrical systems fabricated,
assembled or installed by National . . . to be free under normal
use from manufacturing defects in material or workmanship." (Doc.
21 Ex. A). The warranty applies to "defects in material or
workmanship" for a period of one year from the date of purchase,
and to structural defects for a period of three years. (Doc. 21,
The evidence of record indicates that Grumbine's and National
addressed the majority of the Kerns' concerns and made numerous
repairs to the motor home, free of charge and in compliance with
the warranty. However, deposition testimony reflects that the
fuel gauge was never adequately fixed, that the batteries still
discharge early, that a door continues to open when the vehicle
is in use,*fn5 that the anti-lock braking system does not
work, and that the motor home's bolts, nuts, axles and shocks are
rusted to a point where the vehicle is unsafe to travel
in.*fn6 (Doc. 19, Ex. D at 87-89, 193-194.) In accordance
with the applicable standard of review,*fn7 a reasonable
jury could find that defendants failed to live up to the terms of their warranty, in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Act.
Accordingly, summary judgment on that claim will be denied.
An appropriate order will issue. ORDER
AND NOW, this 10th day of November, 2005, upon consideration of
defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17), and for the
reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, it is hereby
1. The motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17) is
GRANTED against plaintiffs and in favor of defendant
National R.V. Inc., on the claims of fraud,
fraudulent misrepresentation, and violations of the
Pennsylvania Automotive Industry Trade Practices Act,
and in favor of defendant National R.V. Inc., and
Grumbine's R.V. Center on the claim of negligence.
2. The motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17) is
3. The Clerk of Court is directed to DEFER the entry
of judgment until the conclusion of this case.
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