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Sparks v. Forest River, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

December 5, 2019

ANGIE & LARRY SPARKS, Plaintiffs,
v.
FOREST RIVER, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARK T. PITTMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Forest River, Inc.'s (“Forest River”) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 9), Plaintiffs Angie and Larry Sparks' (the “Sparkses”) Response (ECF No. 13), and Forest River's Reply (ECF No. 15). Having reviewed the Motion, Response, Reply, the Sparkses' First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8), and having considered the current status of the case, the Court finds that Forest River's Motion should be and hereby is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         The Sparkses allege in their First Amended Complaint that they purchased a faulty 2016 Sierra by Forest River 5th Wheel Travel Trailer (the “Travel Trailer”) from Forest River for “tens of thousands of dollars.” 1st Am. Compl. at ¶ 9, ECF No. 8. The Sparkses claim that Forest River failed to properly design and install the electrical wiring for the electric fireplace in the Travel Trailer. Id. at ¶ 11. Moreover, the Sparkses claim that Forest River did not install a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (“GFCI”) or an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (“AFCI”) in the circuit panel of the travel trailer. Id. at ¶ 10. GFCIs and AFCIs are devices that act to turn off the flow of electricity when there is a short in electrical wiring, which is a safety feature designed to prevent fires and other damage resulting from malfunctioning electrical wires. Id. The Sparkses allege that GFCIs and AFCIs can and should be installed between the main incoming electric line and the circuit breaker box of a travel trailer. Id.

         When the Sparkses used their electrical fireplace in the Travel Trailer on or about December 19, 2016, the improperly installed wiring caused a short. Id. at 12, 16. As the shorted wiring began to heat and melt, no GFCI of AFCI was in place to turn off the flow of electricity, causing other wiring in the circuit breaker box to melt and malfunction. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff Angie Sparks (“Angie”) personally observed the malfunctioning fireplace while the wiring began to melt, shoot sparks, and ultimately catch fire. Id. at ¶ 13. In response, Angie ran from the Travel Trailer to disconnect the main electric line outside of the Travel Trailer. Id. While running to unplug the Travel Trailer, Angie fell and suffered “a life changing and debilitating injury.” Id.

         On December 13, 2018, the Sparkses filed a lawsuit in the 348th Judicial District Court for Tarrant County, Texas, against Forest River. See ECF No. 1. On February 6, 2019, Forest River removed this action to this Court. ECF No. 1. On April 8, 2019, the Sparkses amended their complaint. ECF No. 8. In the Sparkses amended complaint, the Sparkses purport to bring claims on their behalf as well as on behalf of others similarly situated as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Id. at ¶ 34. The Sparkses seek damages related to property damage suffered by them and members of the class, as well as for the injury to Angie. Id. at 13. These damages include property damage, medical care and expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, loss of consortium including damage to the family relationship, loss of care, comfort, solace, companionship, protection services. Id. The Sparkses also pray for relief in the form of statutory damages under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, exemplary damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and pre- and post-judgment interest. Id. at 43-44.

         Forest River filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on April 22, 2019. ECF No. 9. The Sparkses filed a response to Forest River's motion to dismiss on May 22, 2019 (ECF No. 13), and Forest River filed a reply on June 10, 2019 (ECF No. 15). Forest River's motion to dismiss is now ripe for the Court's review.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “[T]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a party to formulate their pleadings in a manner that is organized and comprehensible.” Boswell v. Honorable Governor of Texas, 138 F.Supp.2d 782, 785 (N.D. Tex. 2000) (Mahon, J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a claim for relief to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(e)(1) provides that although no technical forms of pleadings are required, each claim shall be “simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(2). Furthermore, Rule 10(b) directs parties to separate their claims within their pleadings, and provides that the contents of each shall be “limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b).

         If a plaintiff fails to satisfy Rule 8(a), the defendant may file a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff must plead specific facts, not mere allegations.” Boswell, 138 F.Supp.2d at 785 (citing Elliott v. Foufas, 867 F.2d 877, 881 (5th Cir. 1989)). “While a complaint need not outline all the elements of a claim, the complaint must be comprehensible and specific enough to draw the inference that the elements exist.” Id. (citing Walker v. South Cent. Bell Telephone Co., 904 F.2d 275, 277 (5th Cir. 1990); Ledesma v. Dillard Dept. Stores, Inc., 818 F.Supp. 983, 984 (N.D. Tex. 1993)). A plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Sonnier v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir. 2007). The Court is not bound to accept legal conclusions as true, and only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court assumes their veracity and then determines whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. “The ultimate question in considering a motion to dismiss is whether the complaint states a valid cause of action when it is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Boswell, 138 F.Supp.2d at 785 (citing Lowery v. Texas A & M University Sys., 117 F.2d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997)).

         ANALYSIS

         The Sparkses failed to sufficiently plead the elements of, or legal conditions for, any cause of action against Forest River. To the contrary, the Sparkses have adopted what can be described as a “shot-gun” approach, reciting pages of facts combined with cryptic legalese only serving to confuse the reader. See Boswell, 138 F.Supp.2d at 786. Although the Sparkses' First Amended Complaint contains vague citations to several claims, it is replete with bald, disjointed assertions. The Sparkses' First Amended Complaint contains two separate fact sections, neither of which complies with the mandate of Rule 10(b) to separate claims within pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). The Sparkses' First Amended Complaint also contains a section setting out the Sparkses' Rule 23 class allegations, but it is likewise bereft of any articulation of the causes of action alleged on behalf of the class.[2] This is unacceptable.

         “[I]t is not the Court's place to speculate or imagine what the plaintiff's claims may be.” Martin v. U.S. Post Office, 752 F.Supp. 213, 218 (N.D. Tex. 1990), aff'd. 929 F.2d 697 (5th Cir. 1991); Boswell, 138 F.Supp.2d at 785. Here, the Court cannot determine the nature of the claims asserted in the Sparkses' First Amended Complaint without resorting to improper speculation. Indeed, the confusing nature of the Sparkses' First Amended Complaint is highlighted by the fact that Forest River is required to impermissibly speculate as to the nature of the ...


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