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Lewis v. Jayco, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

August 12, 2019

SANDRA G. LEWIS and WESLEY S. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAYCO, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge

         This case arises from the purchase of an allegedly defective motorhome. The motorhome was manufactured by Jayco, Inc. ("Jayco") and sold by Camping World RV Sales, LLC (Camping World RV Sales"), an affiliate of Camping World, Inc. (collectively, "Camping World"). Relying on the forum-selection clause contained in the limited warranty applicable to the motorhome, Jayco moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of Indiana. The court held a hearing on the motion on June 27, 2019. During the hearing, the plaintiffs opposed Jayco's motion and alternatively requested that the court transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia, based on the forum-selection clause in the purchase agreement. After considering the parties' arguments and applicable caselaw, the court will exercise its discretion to enforce only one of the competing clauses. Specifically, the court will enforce the forum-selection clause in the purchase agreement and transfer all of the plaintiffs' claims to the Eastern District of Virginia. Accordingly, Jayco's motion will be denied and the plaintiffs' oral request to transfer will be granted.

         Background

         Plaintiffs Sandra G. and Wesley S. Lewis reside in Albemarle County, Virginia. On March 17, 2018, the plaintiffs went to Camping World RV Sales in Ashland, Virginia to buy a motorhome for recreational use. They found a 2018 Alante 31R Class A motorhome (the "Motorhome"), which was being sold by Jayco and Camping World. The plaintiffs purchased the Motorhome that same day. The Motorhome came with a limited warranty from Jayco (the "Limited Warranty") and a separate written warranty from the manufacturer of the chassis, Ford Motor Company ("Ford"). During the course of buying the Motorhome, Sandra Lewis signed a purchase agreement with Camping World RV Sales (the "Purchase Agreement"), as well as a warranty registration and customer delivery form acknowledging receipt of the Limited Warranty.

         Prior to purchasing the Motorhome, the defendants and their agents made oral and written representations to the plaintiffs indicating that the Motorhome had been properly inspected prior to delivery and that the Motorhome was free from defects. Camping World RV Sales, "acting as an agent for defendants Jayco and Camping World, Inc.," provided the plaintiffs with a Virginia State Inspection Certification for the Motorhome as part of an effort to convince the plaintiffs that the Motorhome was in good condition and induce them to purchase it. Compl. ¶ 9, Dkt. No. 1-1. The plaintiffs allege that the Virginia State Inspection Certification falsely stated that the Motorhome had satisfactory tires, and that such defect would have been discovered if a proper inspection had actually been performed.

         While driving the Motorhome the following day, the plaintiffs "noticed a loud 'clunking' noise that was produced after going over any bump on the road." Id. ¶ 19. When the plaintiffs notified the defendants' agents about the noise, the plaintiffs were falsely informed that it was normal for motorhomes to make such sound while on the road. Relying on the representations made by the defendants' agents, the plaintiffs did not seek to have the Motorhome inspected or repaired.

         Over the next few months, the plaintiffs continued to hear the same loud noise. On July 24, 2018, the plaintiffs took the Motorhome to Colonial Auto Center, a licensed Ford dealership. Colonial Auto Center inspected the Motorhome and advised the plaintiffs that "the left front wheel was rubbing the body of the motorhome, thereby creating a safety issue that [rendered] the vehicle unable to be driven." Id. ¶ 24. Colonial Auto Center also informed the plaintiffs that "Jayco's hydraulic stabilizer jack . . . was improperly manufactured and was causing contact between the leaf spring and the body of the motorhome," and that the Motorhome was "incorrectly placed on the chassis and, because of the structural issues arising from this error, was unsafe to drive." Id.

         In September of 2018, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants in the Circuit Court of Albemarle County, asserting claims of rescission, actual fraud, and violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The defendants removed the case to this court in October of 2018. Upon removal, Jayco moved to transfer the case pursuant to the forum-selection clause contained in the Limited Warranty. That clause states, in pertinent part, as follows:

EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION FOR DECIDING LEGAL DISPUTES RELATING TO ALLEGED BREACH OF WARRANTY, OR ANY REPRESENTATIONS OF ANY NATURE, MUST BE FILED IN THE COURTS WITHIN THE STATE OF MANUFACTURE, WHICH IS INDIANA. THIS LIMITED WARRANTY SHALL BE INTERPRETED AND CONSTRUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA. ALL CLAIMS, CONTROVERSIES AND CAUSES OF ACTION ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THIS LIMITED WARRANTY, WHETHER SOUNDING CONTRACT, TORT OR STATUTE, SHALL BE GOVERNED BY [THE] LAWS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA ....

         Limited Warranty 22, Dkt. No. 1-1.

         Jayco's motion was taken under advisement pending the completion of limited discovery relevant to the enforceability of the forum-selection clause in the Limited Warranty. The parties appeared for a hearing on the motion on June 27, 2019. During the hearing, the plaintiffs opposed Jayco's motion and alternatively requested that the court transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia based on the forum-selection clause in the Purchase Agreement. That clause states, in pertinent part, as follows:

Any controversy, dispute or claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement or breach thereof shall be interpreted under the laws of the state in which Dealer is located and venue will be in the state and county in which Dealer is located or the applicable federal court.

         Purchase Agreement ¶ 15, Dkt. No. 39-3. The dealer, Camping World RV Sales, is located in Ashland, Virginia, which is in Hanover County. Hanover ...


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