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Joel Goleman v. York International Corp.

August 3, 2011

JOEL GOLEMAN
v.
YORK INTERNATIONAL CORP.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Joel Goleman ("Goleman" or "Plaintiff") filed this putative class action against Defendant York International Corporation ("York" or "Defendant") on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated who purchased Coleman DGU Series Furnaces (the "Furnaces") containing an original "Hot Surface Igniter" ("HSI") component. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant defectively designed the original HSI and failed to notify the proposed class when Defendant designed an upgraded HSI. Specifically, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges violations of many state consumer protection laws (Count I), the Magnuson-Moss Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq. (Count II), and state common law, including breach of express warranty (Count III), breach of implied warranty (Count IV), unjust enrichment (Count V), equitable relief (Count VI), and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing (Count VII). Plaintiff has conceded that Counts II, III, and IV are barred by the statute of limitations.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 5) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is granted with prejudice as to Counts II-V and VII, and without prejudice as to Counts I and VI.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

According to the Complaint, in October 2000, Plaintiff, a citizen and resident of Pennsylvania, purchased and installed a Coleman Gas-Fired, High Efficiency Upflow Condensing DGU Series Furnace (the "Furnace"), model number DGU10014UA, serial number EBEM045566. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 21. Defendant is allegedly the designer, manufacturer, marketer, distributor and seller of the Furnaces. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 20. The Furnace contained an ignition source called the Hot Surface Igniter ("HSI"). Compl. ¶¶ 10, 12. The HSI as originally designed did not have a protective covering to prevent condensation build-up, which can cause the HSI to crack and prevent it from igniting the fuel in the Furnace to deliver heated air. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. Plaintiff alleges that the Furnace came with a 20-year limited warranty from the original installation date.Compl. ¶ 21.

Defendant filed with its Motion to Dismiss the affidavit of David L. Negrey (ECF No. 5, Ex. 1), to which it attached the Limited Warranty and Gas Furnace Heat Exchange Warranty (the "Limited Warranty") for the Furnace based on the serial number alleged in the Complaint. (Ex. A to Negrey Aff.) The Limited Warranty states that "Unitary Products Group (UPG) warrants this product to be free from defects in factory workmanship and material under normal use and service and will, at its option, repair or replace any parts that prove to have such defects within a period of one (1) year from the date of product installation." Id. (emphasis added).*fn1

In 2003, Defendant designed an upgraded HSI with a protective casing to prevent condensation and dirt or dust buildup, which is compatible with the Furnaces. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant did not advise owners of the Furnaces and HVAC technicians who service the Furnaces of the availability of the upgraded HSI, and failed to disclose problems with the original HSI. Compl. ¶¶ 15-17. Plaintiff further alleges that he lacked knowledge of the defect. Compl. ¶ 18.

Sometime before January 2005, Plaintiff's Furnace stopped working. Compl. ¶ 22. On an unspecified date, an HVAC technician repaired the Furnace and informed Plaintiff that the HSI had failed. Compl. ¶ 22. Five years later, on February 24, 2010, an HVAC technician who was called to repair the Furnace replaced the HSI with another HSI of the "original design."*fn2

Compl. ¶ 23. One week later, this HSI failed, and on March 2, 2010, the HVAC technician "again installed the original design Hot Surface Igniter." Compl. ¶ 24. Approximately three days later, the furnace was not working again, and the HVAC technician installed an upgraded HSI. Compl. ¶ 25. Plaintiff paid the HVAC technician $120 for the upgraded HSI and $275 for the labor associated with the three visits. Compl. ¶ 25. Plaintiff has had no further problems with the Furnace. Compl. ¶ 26.

On February 25, 2011, Plaintiff filed the Complaint against Defendant. (ECF No. 1) Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss on April 19, 2011. (ECF No. 5) Plaintiff responded on May 9, 2011. (ECF No. 6) Defendant replied on May 16, 2011. (ECF No. 7)

III. The Parties' Contentions

Defendant raises five arguments in its motion to dismiss. First, Defendant contends that the Magnuson-Moss Act (Count II), breach of express warranty (Count III), and breach of implied warranty (Count IV) claims are barred both by a four-year statute of limitations, and because the alleged design defect arose after the expiration of the Limited Warranty. Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 4-7. Plaintiff concedes that his warranty claims are barred. Pl.'s Mem. Law Opp'n 4.

Second, Defendant contends Plaintiff's claim for unjust enrichment (Count V) fails, because it is barred by a four-year statute of limitations, which began to run when Plaintiff purchased the Furnace in October 2000. Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 7-8. Plaintiff responds that the statute of limitations was tolled by the discovery rule and fraudulent concealment doctrine. Pl.'s Mem. Law Opp'n 4-5. Defendant also contends that the unjust enrichment claim fails as a matter of law because the Limited Warranty is an express contract governing the parties' relationship. Id. at 8-9

Third, Defendant contends Plaintiff's claim for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing (Count VII) fails, because Plaintiff cannot specify a contract provision under which Defendant breached any alleged duty, and because "there is no such thing as a claim for breach of a free-standing duty of good faith and fair dealing under these circumstances." Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 9. Plaintiff responds that "every contract imposes an obligation of good faith in its performance or enforcement," and that "[h]onesty in the previous transactions (the prior repairs) would have mandated that Plaintiff be advised of the redesign of the [HSI] . . . ."

Pl.'s Mem. Law Opp'n 6-7.

Fourth, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claim under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") (Count I) fails, because Plaintiff did not plead facts to support his allegations as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 9-11. Plaintiff responds that the Rule 9(b) heightened pleading standard does not apply to allegations of deceptive conduct under the UTPCPL. Pl.'s Mem. Law Opp'n 7-8. Alternatively, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has not pled the elements of a UTPCPL claim. Def.'s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 7-8.

Finally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claim for equitable relief (Count VI) fails, because all of Plaintiff's substantive claims should be dismissed, and there are adequate remedies at law. Plaintiff responds that equitable relief is warranted given that "Plaintiff has no adequate redress at law" and that "[t]he equitable relief being sought by Plaintiff" is ...


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