United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
RICHARD L. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
DARCARS OF NEW CARROLLTON, INC., et al., Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Richard L. Harris brings this action against Defendants
Darcars of New Carrollton. Inc. ("Darcars") and
Chrysler Group. LLC. n/k/a FCA U.S. LLC ("FCA US, "
collectively. "Defendants"), alleging that
Defendants refused to honor express and implied warranties
requiring them to repair damage to his vehicle caused by a
manufacturing defect without cost to Plaintiff. Specifically.
Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated the Magnuson-Moss
Warranty Act. 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq., and the
Maryland Consumer Protection Act. Commercial Law Article
("CL") § 13-301 et seq., and breached
express and implied warranties. Now pending before the Court
is Defendants" Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 49.
and Plaintiffs Motion to Strike Defendants' Lxpert
Opinion. ECF No. 55. No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons. Defendants'
Motion is granted, in part, and denied, in part, and
Plaintiffs Motion is denied.
purchased anew 2012 Chrysler 300 from Darcars in August of
2012. ECF No. 54-2 ¶ 3. The vehicle is covered by
express limited warranties set forth in the warranty booklet,
including a 36 month / 36, 000 mile Basic Limited Warranty
and a 5 year / 100.000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty
(hereinafter ""express limited warranties"),
covering "the cost of all parts and labor needed to
repair any item on your vehicle when it left the
manufacturing plant that is defective in materials,
workmanship or factory preparation." ECF No. 50-1 at
The warranty booklet also provides that the buyer "may
have some implied warranties, depending on the state where
your vehicle was sold or is registered." Id. at
1. However, the booklet states that the warranties do not
cover incidental or consequential damages, nor do they cover
damage caused by abuse, negligence, or misuse, Id.
at 5. 18.
first experienced engine problems in September of 2013.
Plaintiff testified that while driving the vehicle, the
engine temperature gauge on the vehicle's dashboard
display "jumped" and the car suddenly shut off. ECF
No. 54-2 ¶ 7. At that time. Plaintiff saw both an engine
symbol and "z" symbol on the dashboard
display. Id. Darcars determined that both cylinder
heads were warped from overheating and replaced the cylinder
heads and camshaft free of charge. ECF No. 50-3: see
also ECF No. 50-2 at 14.
one year later. Plaintiff again experienced engine problem..
Plaintiff brought the vehicle back to Darcass on September 4,
2014 after seeing the same dashboard display seen during the
September 2013 incident. ECF No. 54-2 ¶ 10: ECF No.
50-4. However. unlike the 2013 incident. the engine
temperature gauge did not dicker and the engine did not shut
off. ECF No. 54-2 ¶ 10. Additionally Plaintiff testified
that, one day prior, while driving in New-York. Plaintiff
dune the front end of the vehicle over a cement stop,
damaging the underside of the vehicle. ECF No. 50-2 at
6-73. Darcars provided Plaintiff with a
Recommended Action Plan and free repair estimate, indicating
that its technicians found that both cylinder heads were
warped due to "intensive over heating and low
compression." there was a slow leak in the radiator, and
the radiator mount bracket was bent. ECF No. 50-5 at 3
(Recommended Action Plan): see also ECF No. 50-4
(Inspection Invoice). The technicians clarified that they
found "two pinpricks" in the radiator hosing and a
hole at the top of the radiator. ECF No. 50-2 at 7. Darcars
then informed Plaintiff that the repair would not be covered
under the vehicle's warranty because the damage was
caused by an accident. ECF No. 50-2 at 7. and estimated that
the repair would cost $8.478331. ECF No. 50-5 at 3.
receiving the repair estimate, Plaintiff filed a claim with
his insurance company. Erie Insurance, for damage to the
vehicle's engine and radiator caused by the
aforementioned accident. ECF No. 50-15 at 4. Mishon Horton a
material damage appraiser for Eric Insurance. conducted an
inspection of the vehicle on September 8. 2014. ECF No. 50-6
at 5. Horton observed that there was a hole in the radiator,
the upper radiator hose was leaking, and a Darcars mechanic
had performed a pressure test whereby the radiator exhibited
a "heavy leak'" ECF No. 50-6 at 7-8; see
also ECF No. 50-11 (Horton photos of radiator leak. Eric
Insurance ultimately denied Plaintiffs claim on November 25.
2014. determining that the damages were not related to
hitting the cement stop, but rather appeared to be the result
of wear and tear and mechanical breakdown or failure. ECF No.
50-15 at 5. Erie Insurance's decision was subsequently
upheld by Administrative Law Judge Michael D. Carlis on
appeal to the Maryland Insurance Administration on August 10.
2016. ECF No. 50-15.
has designated Troy Johnson as an expert witness. ECF No.
50-13. Johnson inspected the vehicle in the fall of 2015 and
again on December 28. 2016. Id. at 4. Johnson opined
that "[t]he damage inflicted on the vehicle [from the
September 2014 accident] was minor and this damage could not
have had anything to do with the eventual engine
failure." Id. at 5. He further stated that he
"pressure tested the coolant system to determine whether
the radiator leaked and could not find any leaks. The only
leak I could determine occurred at the engine internal head
and/or gasket." Id. at 4. Johnson therefore
determined that "based upon the fact the 2014 engine
malfunction was similar to the engine failure in 2013. it is
more likely than not that the 2014 engine failure was due to
defective manufactured parts and/or workmanship or due to
defective parts or workmanship related to the 2013 repair to
the engine." Id. at 5.
have designated FCA U.S. technical advisor Joseph Morton as
an expert witness. ECF No. 55-1. Prior to Morton's
involvement. FCA U.S. technical advisor Kenny Kase conducted
a pre-suit inspection on September 22. 2016 and prepared a
preliminary vehicle report summary. ECF No. 56-2. Morton
concurred with Kase"s prior report and conducted his own
inspection on February 21. 2017. ECF No. 55-1 at 4.
Morton observed damage to the underside of the vehicle,
including the radiator, and opined in his July 10. 2017
declaration that damage to the radiator caused a coolant leak
which in turn caused the engine to overheat. ECF No. 50-14
¶ 9. While Morton's inspection did not reveal a leak
in the radiator. ECF No. 55-1. Morton relied on. in part,
observations made by Darcars" technicians and Horton who
concluded that the radiator was leaking shortly after the
accident. ECF No. 50-14 ¶ 9. Morton presumed that the
leak and overheating of the engine would have been displayed
through the vehicle's temperature gauge and further
opined that Plaintiffs continued use of the vehicle caused
the engine to fail. Id. ¶ 10.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "This standard provides that the
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material
fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477
U.S. 242. 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). Thus.
"[t]he party opposing a properly supported motion for
summary judgment 'may not rest upon the mere allegations
or denials of [his] pleadings, * but rather must "set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial."" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club. Inc., 346 F.3d 514. 525 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (alteration in original).
motion for summary judgment, the Court must "view the
evidence in the light most favorable to . .. the nonmovant.
and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the
evidence or assessing the witness' credibility."
Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290
F.3d 639. 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The moving party bears the
burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact. No genuine issue of material fact exists if
the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of his case as to which he would have the
burden of proof. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477
U.S. 31 7. 322-23 (1986).
three claims all center on the same basic premise-that the
engine failure was caused by a manufacturing defect covered
under the vehicle's express limited warranties or the
implied warranty of merchantability. See ECF No. 27.
In Count I. Plaintiff brings a claim for breach of these
warranties under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. See
§ 2310(d)(1) ("a consumer who is damaged by the
failure of a supplier, warranter, or service contractor to
comply with any obligation under this chapter, or under a
written warranty, implied warranty, or service contract, may
bring suit for damages and other legal and equitable
relief"). In Count II. Plaintiff brings a claim under
the Maryland Consumer Protection Act for failure to repair
the vehicle pursuant to the terms of the express limited
warranties. In Count III. Plaintiff brings a state law claim
for breach of the express limited warranties under CL §
2-714 and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability
under § 2-715.
Counts. Maryland law governs whether Defendants breached any
of its express or implied warranties. See
Crickenberger V. Hyundai Motor America, 944
A.2d 1136. 1142 (Md. 2008) ("Magnuson-Moss Act
supplements State law with regard to its limited and implied
warranty provisions''); Zitterbart v. American
Suzuki Motor Corp.,958 A.2d 372, 384 (Md. Ct. Spec.
App. 2008) (citing CL §$ 2-313-315 ("when a
consumer is the beneficiary of a limited warranty ... [a
Magnuson-Moss] claim is merely a means for the consumer to
pursue the substantive warranty ...