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Kotsur v. Goodman Global, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 17, 2014

ROBERT KOTSUR, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
GOODMAN GLOBAL, INC., GOODMAN MANUFACTURING COMPANY, L.P., and GOODMAN COMPANY, L.P., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NORMA L. SHAPIRO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Kotsur filed a class action on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated Pennsylvania residents who purchased a Goodman Unit for primarily personal, family or household purposes against defendants Goodman Global, Inc., Goodman Manufacturing Company, L.P., and Goodman Company, L.P ("Goodman") in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.[1] See Complaint (paper no. 1, Ex. A). In his complaint, plaintiff alleged four counts: (1) breach of express warranty, (2) breach of implied warranty of merchantability, (3) violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa. Stat §§ 201-1, et seq., and (4) unjust enrichment. Id. Defendants removed this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). See Notice of Removal (paper no. 1). Removal to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is proper because this district includes Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see also 28 U.S.C. § 118(a) (providing that the Eastern District includes Bucks County). There has been no dispute Pennsylvania law applies.

The court, sua sponte, considered if there was jurisdiction under CAFA after plaintiff withdrew his objection to federal jurisdiction. The court must consider whether it has jurisdiction even if neither party has raised the issue. See Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 721 (1975). The court ordered the parties to complete limited discovery on diversity jurisdiction and to brief the issues relevant to jurisdiction under CAFA. See Order (paper no. 26), Order (paper no. 48). The court held a status conference on October 15, 2014 to consider jurisdiction. See Status Conference (paper no. 61).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleged on or about December 28, 2009 he purchased a new home "which had been built equipped with a Goodman Unit." Complaint ¶ 69 (paper no. 1, Ex. A). Plaintiff's Goodman Products came with a "Limited Warranty" which provided, "This heating or air conditioning unit is warranted by Goodman Manufacturing Company, L.P. ("Goodman") to be free from defects in materials and workmanship that affect performance under normal use and maintenance." See Limited Warranty (paper no. 5, Ex. A). The Limited Warranty also stated, "Goodman will furnish a replacement part, without charge for the part only, to replace any part that is found to be defective due to workmanship or materials under normal use and maintenance... These warranties do not apply to labor, freight, or any other cost associated with the service, repair or operation of the unit." Id.

Plaintiff alleged the Goodman Units contain defective evaporator coils that "improperly and prematurely leak refrigerant (a.k.a. Freon) under normal use." Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff alleged he began to have problems with his Goodman Unit in or about May 2011 when his Goodman Unit failed to cool his home. Complaint ¶ 70 (paper no. 1, Ex. A). A technician found his Goodman Unit was low on refrigerant but could not locate a leak. Id. at ¶ 70. The technician charged plaintiff for adding refrigerant to the system and pumping it with nitrogen in an effort to seal leaks. Id. at ¶ 70. In or about May 2013, and in or about July 2013, plaintiff's unit again failed to cool his home and plaintiff incurred charges for adding refrigerant to his unit. Id. at ¶¶ 71-72. In or about August 2013, plaintiff's unit failed to cool his home and the technician determined there was a leak in the evaporator coil of his Goodman Unit after performing a leak detection dye test. Id. at ¶ 73. Pursuant to Goodman's warranty, the technician returned plaintiff's defective evaporator coil to Goodman in exchange for a new evaporator coil and installed the new evaporator coil. Id. at ¶ 74. Goodman provided the new evaporator coil free of charge, but did not cover the labor and refrigerant costs associated with removal of the allegedly defective evaporator coil and installation of the new evaporator coil. Id.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

This court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's class action if the requirements of CAFA are satisfied. CAFA vests original jurisdiction in a federal district court over an action filed in federal court or the defendant's removal to federal court of a class action before or after the entry of a class certification order. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(8). CAFA defines a "class action" as "any civil action filed under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or similar State statute or rule of judicial procedure authorizing an action to be brought by 1 or more representative persons as a class action." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(1)(B). "In removal cases, we begin evaluating jurisdiction by reviewing the allegations in the complaint and in the notice of removal." Kaufman v. Allstate New Jersey Ins. Co., 561 F.3d 144, 151 (2009). CAFA provides federal jurisdiction for a class action if: (1) the proposed class has at least 100 members; (2) the parties are minimally diverse; and (3) the aggregate of claims exceeds the sum or value of five million dollars, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), (d)(2)(A), and (d)(5)(B).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff filed a state court "class action" as defined by CAFA since it was filed pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1702. See Complaint ¶¶ 81-86 & p. 27 (paper no. 1, Ex. A); Erie Ins. Exchange v. Erie Indem. Co., 722 F.3d 154, 159-160 (3d Cir. 2013) (" Rules 1701 through 1704 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure contain specific requirements for a lawsuit to be brought as a class action, many of which mirror the requirements of Rule 23."). CAFA defines class members to include those persons "who fall within the definition of the proposed or certified class in a class action." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(1)(D).

In the complaint, plaintiff proposes a class of "All persons residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who purchased a Goodman Unit since January 2007 for primarily personal, family or household purposes, and not for resale." Complaint ¶ 79 (paper no. 1, Ex. A).

A. Proposed Class has at Least 100 Members

Plaintiff alleged "the class is comprised of at least thousands of members geographically dispersed throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, " although the exact number of class members is unknown at present. Complaint ¶ 81 (paper no. 1, Ex. A). In the notice of removal to federal court, defendants alleged the requirement that the number of class plaintiffs must exceed 100 "is easily demonstrated by Plaintiff's assertion [in the complaint]." Notice of Removal ¶ 8 (paper no. 1). In an exhibit attached to defendants' brief in support of the court's subject matter jurisdiction, the defendants reveal under seal the number of warranty claims made on evaporator coils in Pennsylvania between 2006 ...


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