United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
Filed July 8, 2015
For Gene Martin Burke, Virginia Mary Burke, Plaintiffs: John Cole Gayle, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, The Consumer Law Group, Richmond, VA.
For THOR Motor Coach, Inc., Defendant: Danielle Deanna Giroux, LEAD ATTORNEY, Harman Claytor Corrigan & Willman, Richmond, VA.
For Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation, Defendant: Martin Andrew Conn, LEAD ATTORNEY, Moran Reeves & Conn. PC, Richmond, VA; Susan Leigh Kimble, Goodman Allen & Filetti PLLC (Glen Allen), Glen Allen, VA.
John A. Gibney, Jr., United States District Judge.
In 2014, Gene and Virginia Burke bought a brand new RV made by THOR Motor Coach, Inc. (" Thor" ), with a chassis manufactured by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (" FCCC" ). The RV turned out to be a lemon, according to the Burkes. After several unsuccessful attempts to resolve various mechanical and aesthetic problems, the Burkes sued both Thor and FCCC under both federal and state warranty enforcement laws. Thor filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing that Virginia's lemon law excludes from liability all motor-home manufacturers except those that make the vehicle's chassis.
Case law on this point conflicts, so Thor asks this Court to certify the question to the Supreme Court of Virginia. After considering the statute's language, the Court concludes that Virginia's lemon law attaches liability to motor home defects only
with respect to the motor home's " self-propelled motorized chassis." Because Thor did not manufacture the chassis in question, Thor cannot be held liable under Virginia's lemon law. Accordingly, the Court denies the motion to certify and grants the motion to dismiss Count II as against Thor.
I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
On February 26, 2014, Gene and Virginia Burke purchased a brand new 2014 Thor Palazzo RV motor home from Safford RV, LLC, a Thor-authorized dealer. (Compl. ¶ 6.) According to the Burkes, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (" FCCC" ) manufactured the motor home's chassis, and Thor Motor Coach, Inc. (" Thor" ), manufactured the remainder of the vehicle. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 3-4.) Almost immediately after the purchase, problems arose with the vehicle, including mechanical issues with the engine, brakes, heating, and water system, aesthetic blights in the interior, and overall shoddy workmanship throughout. ( See Compl. ¶ 11-14.) The Burkes took the vehicle to FCCC's South Carolina facility for inspection and repairs, but the fixes did not last. (Compl. ¶ 14-16.) After the vehicle continued to have problems, the Burkes took it to Thor's manufacturing facility in Indiana, but three weeks' worth of repairs did not solve the problems. (Compl. ¶ 18.) The Burkes then hired an attorney and tried to get their money back, to no avail. (Compl. ¶ 21-25.) The Burkes then filed this action against Thor and FCCC under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 (Count I), and Virginia's lemon law, the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, Va. Code § 59.1-207.9, et seq. (Count II).
Thor filed two motions in response, both related to Count II. First, Thor seeks dismissal of Count II under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Virginia's lemon law does not apply to manufacturers of the non-chassis portions of a motor home. Case law on this issue points in opposite directions, however, so Thor filed a second motion asking the Court to certify the following question to the Supreme Court of Virginia:
Does the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act (" lemon law" ) apply to a " final stage manufacturer" of a motor home who does not manufacture the self-propelled motorized chassis of the motor home?
The Burkes oppose both motions and contend that the lemon law applies to all portions of a motor home, and, therefore, Thor may be held liable for the defects in their RV.
In Count II, the Burkes' complaint alleges a violation of the Virginia's lemon law, Va. Code§ 59.1-207.9, et seq. The lemon law allows a purchaser of a vehicle to file suit against the vehicle manufacturer, its agents, or authorized dealers if the vehicle does not conform with " any applicable warranty." Va. Code § 59.1-207.14. According to Thor, the law does not cover entire motor homes, but only a motor home's self-propelled motorized chassis. Because Thor did not manufacture the chassis, it asks the Court to dismiss Count
II as against Thor.
Thor points out that two federal cases from the Western District of Virginia addressed the exact issue in this case, but came to opposite conclusions. In light of this disagreement, Thor thinks the issue should be certified to ...