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Prushan v. Select Comfort Retail Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 30, 2017

ALAN PRUSHAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
SELECT COMFORT RETAIL CORP., et al., Defendants.


          Joyner, J.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. No. 2) and Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. No. 9). For the reasons below, Defendants' Motion is granted as to Plaintiffs' fraud claim and denied in all other respects.

         I. Facts and Procedural History [1]

         Defendants Select Comfort Retail Corp. and Select Comfort Corp. (collectively “Select Comfort”) design, manufacture, advertise, distribute, and sell Sleep Number® beds. In 1993 or 1994, Plaintiffs Alan Prushan (“Mr. Prushan”) and Carol Prushan (“Ms. Prushan”) purchased a Sleep Number bed directly from Select Comfort.

         At some point in time unknown to Plaintiffs, Select Comfort received complaints about toxic mold growing in Sleep Number beds. Select Comfort neither recalled the beds nor provided notice to purchasers. Indeed, Plaintiffs cite in their complaint a 2004 press report in which Select Comfort's CEO stated that Select Comfort had “intentionally been selective, rather than broad, in our public communication of the issue (mold reports) because we believe it is better for the mattress industry and ourselves not to keep this topic in the headlines, causing unnecessary concern for consumers.” (Compl. ¶ 16).

         Plaintiffs allege that they first learned of “the toxic mold problem, ” (Compl. ¶ 12), in November 2014, at which time Plaintiffs inspected their Sleep Number bed and discovered that it was contaminated with toxic mold. Plaintiffs allege that, since at least 1999, Mr. Prushan suffered from severe and permanent injuries caused by his exposure to the toxic mold in his bed and that such injuries are the direct and proximate result of Select Comfort's negligence.

         Invoking diversity jurisdiction, Plaintiffs filed their complaint in October 2016. Plaintiffs allege numerous violations of state law, in particular strict liability, product liability, design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn (Count I); negligent design and/or maintenance - product liability (Count II); negligence - defective manufacture - product liability (Count III); negligence - failure to warn - product liability (Count IV); loss of consortium (Count V); and fraud (Count VI).

         II. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires a court to dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has failed to “state a claim on which relief can be granted.” In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, but it is not required to blindly accept “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Although a plaintiff is not required to plead detailed factual allegations, the complaint must include enough facts to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         III. Analysis

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Defendants first argue that all of Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. The parties are in agreement that Pennsylvania law applies and that the statute of limitations for Plaintiffs' claims is two years. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(2).

         According to Defendants, the statute of limitations began to accrue when Mr. Prushan's injury was first sustained in 1999 (or earlier) and therefore Plaintiffs' claims have long been time-barred. Plaintiffs respond that Pennsylvania's “discovery rule” exception tolled the statute of limitations because Plaintiffs were incapable of ascertaining the nature of Mr. Prushan's illness and its cause until they discovered the mold in their mattress in November 2014. Defendants answer that the discovery rule is inapplicable to this case. In the alternative, Defendants argue that even if the discovery rule does apply, Plaintiffs' claims would still be time-barred because the discovery rule exception would have expired in 2009 when Defendants created a website dedicated to providing information concerning mold in Sleep Number beds. (Doc. No. 2-1, at 9-10).

         The statue of limitations period “generally begins to run as soon as the injury is sustained.” Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 344 n.13 (3d Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). “In general, ‘lack of knowledge, mistake or misunderstanding do not toll the running of the statute of limitations.'” Id. (citing Pocono Int'l Raceway, Inc. v. Pocono Produce, Inc., 503 Pa. 80, 84-85 (1983)). “As an exception to that principle, Pennsylvania adheres to the ‘discovery rule, ' which can, in limited circumstances, afford plaintiffs additional time for the filing of ...

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