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Woodard v. Sears, Roebuck, & Co.

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

August 30, 2013

GEORGE WOODARD and NELLIE WOODARD, Plaintiffs,
v.
SEARS, ROEBUCK, AND CO.; CARRIER CORPORATION; JOHN DOE 1; and JOHN and JANE DOES 2-10, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MICHAEL T. PARKER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs brought this action against Sears, Roebuck, and Co., Carrier Corporation, and John and Jane Does 1-10 alleging that certain actions taken by Defendants regarding the sale, maintenance, repair, and replacement of a central air and heating unit resulted in injury to Plaintiffs and constituted negligence, gross negligence, breach of contract, bad faith, product liability, and breach of implied warranties and express warranties.[1]

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant Sears, Roebuck, and Co.'s Motion to Dismiss [19] and Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Complaint [24]. Having considered the pleadings, the record, and the applicable law, and being fully advised in the premises, the undersigned recommends that Defendant Sears, Roebuck, and Co.'s Motion to Dismiss [19] be granted in part and denied in part and Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Complaint [24] be granted.

FACTUAL HISTORY

In 1986, Plaintiffs, George and Nellie Woodard, purchased a Kenmore Sears Central Air and Heating Unit ("the unit") from Defendant Sears, Roebuck, and Co. ("Sears"). (Complaint at 3.) Plaintiffs alleged they entered into a maintenance agreement with Sears which stated that Sears would provide preventative maintenance and repairs on the unit.[2] (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiffs allegedly paid Sears approximately $855 every year since the purchase of the unit to renew the maintenance agreement. (Compl. at 3.) According to Plaintiffs, they began experiencing problems with the unit almost immediately after purchase. (Compl. at 3.) The unit allegedly leaked and drained water inside and under Plaintiffs' house. (Compl. at 3.)

Starting sometime after the purchase of the unit and continuing until 2011, Plaintiffs called upon Sears to repair or replace the unit.[3] (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiffs alleged Sears repeatedly sent technicians that were unable to correct the problems with the unit. (Compl. at 3.) According to Plaintiffs, Sears replaced the unit in 2006.[4] (Compl. at 4.) Plaintiffs alleged Sears agreed to repair or replace the unit in 2009, 2010, and 2011 but failed to do so. (Compl. at 4-5.) According to Plaintiffs, the unit continues to function improperly, and they have suffered out-of-pocket expenses and damage to their home. (Compl. at 5.) Specifically, Plaintiffs had to level the foundation of their house because of the accumulation of water under the house. (Compl. at 4.) Also, Plaintiffs have been without heating or air conditioning since 2005 and were unable to live in their home for a period of time. (Compl. at 5.)

Plaintiffs commenced this action on April 19, 2012, in the Circuit Court for the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. (Compl. at 1.) On May 15, 2012, this action was removed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. (Notice of Removal [1].) Thereafter, Sears moved to have Plaintiffs' claims dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (Def.'s Mo. Dis. at 2.) Sears contends that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statues of limitations. (Def.'s Mo. Dis. at 2.) Sears also contends that it owed no duty to Plaintiffs because it was not a party to the maintenance agreement. (Def.'s Mo. Dis. at 2.) Plaintiffs oppose the motion to dismiss. (Pls' Res. Mo. Dis.) Plaintiffs also seek leave to amend their complaint. (Pls' Mo. Am.)

ANALYSIS

Motion to Dismiss

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides: "After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Courts evaluate a "motion under Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings using the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim." Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 543-44 (5th Cir. 2010). Therefore, to survive Sears's Rule 12(c) motion, Plaintiffs' "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., LLC v. La. State, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010).

Plaintiffs' allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555-56 (2007). The complaint need only provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While mere labels and conclusions are insufficient, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); PSKS, Inc. v. Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc., 615 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2010).

Statutes of Limitations

Courts are generally hesitant to grant a motion to dismiss based on a statute of limitations; however, where it is apparent from the pleadings that a claim is time-barred, a statute of limitations may support dismissal. Jones v. Alcoa, Inc., 339 F.3d 359, 366 (5th Cir. 2003); Southgate Shopping Center v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 2006 WL 3349242, *1 (N.D. Miss. Nov. 17, 2006). Where a defendant asserts a statute of limitations as a defense and demonstrates that the statute bars a claim, the plaintiff bears the burden to demonstrate some legal or equitable basis for avoiding the statute of limitations. Archer v. Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp., 633 F.Supp.2d 259, 265 (S.D.Miss. 2007) (citing Gulf Nat'l Bank v. King, 362 So.2d 1253, 1255 (Miss. 1978); Hall v. Dillard, 739 So.2d 383, ...


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