United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
William M. Nickerson Senior United States District Judge.
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant The Hertz
Corporation (Defendant or Hertz). ECF No. 50. The motion is
ripe. Upon a review of the briefs submitted and the
applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is
necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that the Motion to Dismiss
will be granted in part and denied in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
brought this action challenging certain charges that
Defendant assessed against him after the car he had rented
from Defendant was damaged in a minor accident. Plaintiff, a
resident of Alabama, rented a car from Defendant at the
Baltimore Washington International Airport on July 3, 2013.
Plaintiff is a member of Defendant's Gold Plus Rewards
Program and when he enrolled in that program he agreed to
certain terms and conditions that would govern future
rentals. Those terms and conditions were set out in a 40-plus
page Rental Terms Agreement booklet (Agreement). First
Amended Compl. (FAC) ¶ 11; see also ECF No.
16-2 (the Agreement). When he rented the car on July 3, 2013,
he also agreed to certain additional terms specific to this
rental that were set out in a “Rental Record.”
FAC ¶ 11; see also ECF No. 10-2 at 71-74
(Rental Record). It is undisputed that these two documents
form the entire contract between Plaintiff and Defendant
regarding the subject rental.
Agreement provides that the renter of the vehicle is
“responsible for any and all loss of or damage to the
car resulting from any cause including but not limited to
collision, rollover, theft, vandalism, seizure, fire, flood,
hail or other acts of nature or God regardless of
fault.” Agreement § 4(a).The Agreement provides
further that the renter's “responsibility will not
exceed the greater of the retail fair market value of the car
and its manufacturer buyback program value at the time the
car is lost or damaged, less its salvage value, plus actual
towing, storage and impound fees, an administrative charge
and a reasonable charge for loss of use.” Id.
§ 4(b). The Agreement also permits Defendant to charge
the renter's “credit, charge or debit card for
these losses, costs and charges, together with any other
applicable charges, at or following the completion of the
5, 2013, Plaintiff was involved in a minor parking lot
accident which resulted in some minor damage to
Defendant's vehicle. Defendant assessed the following
charges related to this accident:
Repairs to the vehicle: $662.90
Administration Fees: $85.39
Loss of Use: $362.94
Diminishment of Value Fees: $111.80
FAC ¶ 20. Because Plaintiff had declined Defendant's
loss damage insurance, the claim for this accident was
submitted to American Express which provided car rental
insurance through Plaintiff's credit card program.
American Express agreed to pay and has paid for all of the
Repairs and for one half of the Loss of Use, but has declined
payment for the Administrative or Diminishment of Value Fees.
Defendant takes the position that Plaintiff is responsible
for the fees unpaid by American Express, which amount to
$378.66. Id. ¶ 22.
initially filed this suit as a putative class action in the
Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, on April 6,
2015. Defendant removed this action to the United States
District Court for the District of New Jersey and then filed
a motion to have the case transferred to this Court. That
motion was granted on October 27, 2015. After the case
arrived in this Court, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss
some of the claims asserted against it in the Complaint. ECF
No. 42. Defendant also filed a motion to stay the time for
filing an answer to the claims that were not the subject of
its motion to dismiss. ECF No. 41. Shortly thereafter,
Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 48,
rendering Defendant's two previous motions moot.
First Amended Complaint, as he did in his original Complaint,
Plaintiff challenges the Loss of Use, Administrative, and
Diminishment of Value fees. He observes that nowhere in the
Agreement is there an expressed allowance for any
Diminishment of Value fee. While acknowledging that the
Agreement permits the assessment of Loss of Use and
Administrative fees, he contends that those fees must be
reasonably related to actual costs incurred by Defendant. He
asserts that they are not so related, but, instead, are
simply a means by which Defendant creates additional profit.
upon these allegations, Plaintiff brings the following claims
in the First Amended Complaint: Count I (Breach of Contract),
Count II (Violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection
Act), Count III (Injunctive Relief), Count IV (Injunctive
Relief Pursuant to Common Law), Count V (Unjust Enrichment),
and Count VI (Negligent Misrepresentation). Plaintiff
proposes a class consisting of all persons and entities that
have rented vehicles from Defendants in the 6 years prior to
the original filing of this action and who were charged a
Diminishment of Value fee, a Loss of Use fee, and/or an
Administrative fee for damage and/or loss by Defendant. As a
subclass, Plaintiff proposes a similarly defined group of
persons and entities who rented their vehicles in Maryland.
the motion to dismiss the original Complaint which did not
challenge Plaintiff's breach of contract claim, the
instant motion seeks to dismiss the First Amended Complaint
in its entirety. Briefly stated, Defendant argues that there
was no breach of contract because both the Agreement and
Maryland common law permit the recovery of these challenged
fees. For the same reasons, Defendant argues that the
Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claim fails because
the challenged fees were fully disclosed. As for the unjust
enrichment and negligent misrepresentation claims, Defendant
asserts that those claims should be dismissed because these
tort claims cannot be brought where the parties'
relationship is governed by a contract. Finally Defendant
suggests that claims for injunctive relief asserted in Counts
III and IV should be dismissed because injunctive relief is a
remedy and not an independent cause of action. As to that
last argument, Plaintiff concedes that Counts III and IV
should be withdrawn as separate counts.
complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. Although when considering a motion to
dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations
in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id.