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Poriss v. Gene Langan Volkswagen of Connecticut, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 31, 2016

SARAH PORISS, Plaintiff,
v.
GENE LANGAN VOLKSWAGEN OF CONNECTICUT, INC., et al., Defendants.

RULING GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT

Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

This case involves an owner of a Volkswagen automobile who seeks damages stemming from well-publicized allegations that Volkwagen fraudulently installed devices in its diesel cars that were designed to evade air pollution control laws. After plaintiff filed her action in Connecticut state court, the Volkswagen defendants removed the case to this Court. Plaintiff now seeks remand on the ground that there is no federal jurisdiction over this case. Because plaintiff properly drafted her complaint in a manner that does not trigger federal jurisdiction over her claims, I will grant plaintiff's motion to remand.

Background

In November 2012, plaintiff Sarah Poriss purchased a new Volkswagen diesel automobile from her local dealer, defendant Gene Langan Volkswagen of Connecticut, Inc. (Gene Langan). At the time of that purchase, plaintiff alleges that the car was equipped with a "defeat device" that allowed the vehicle to pass the Connecticut emissions tests and meet EPA certification requirements, despite the fact that the car actually emitted illegal levels of pollutants into the air during normal operations. She further alleges that defendants Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft knew about this device, and yet all the defendants marketed and sold her the car as a "clean diesel" model.

Plaintiff filed a five-count complaint in Connecticut state court. Two of her claims arise under federal law under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2310, and the remaining three claims arise under Connecticut state law:

• Count One alleges a federal law claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for breach of implied warranty of merchantability against the defendant car dealer Gene Langan.
• Count Two alleges a state law claim for breach of express warranty against the Volkswagen defendants.[1]
• Count Three alleges a federal law claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for breach of implied warranty of merchantability against the Volkswagen defendants.
• Count Four alleges a state law claim of fraud by concealment against the Volkswagen defendants.
• Count Five alleges a state law claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) against the Volkswagen defendants.

Most significantly for purposes of this ruling, plaintiffs two federal law claims-Counts One and Three-expressly limit the damages sought to less than the $50, 000 threshold that is required in order to maintain a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in a federal court.[2] Two of plaintiff s remaining state law claims-for fraudulent concealment (Count Four) and CUTPA (Count Five)-seek punitive damages, and these claims do not limit the amount claimed to less than $50, 000. Id. at 19 (¶ 35), 21 (¶ 38).

Defendants timely removed this action to federal court on the asserted ground that federal jurisdiction exists under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Plaintiff has now moved to remand on the ground that her complaint limits the amount in controversy to an amount under the $50, 000 minimum that is required to allow for federal jurisdiction over a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

Discussion

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act creates a cause of action for certain consumer claims of breach of warranty or breach of contract. See 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d). Congress authorized a cause of action to be brought in either a state court or a federal court, see § 2310(d)(1), but was careful to limit the actions under the Act that may be maintained in a federal court rather than in a state court. Specifically, the Act provides that "[n]o claim shall be cognizable in a suit" before a federal district court "if the amount in controversy is less than the sum or value of $50, 000 (exclusive of interests and costs) computed on the basis of all claims to be determined in this ...


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