Thompson v. Jiffy Lube International, Inc., et al., 505 F. Supp.2d 907 (D. Kan. April 23, 2007)

This one’s a journey down the yellow brick road to dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims against one defendant and partial dismissal against two others. The wizard, the court that is, had a lot to address in the opinion. No, not whether the tin man deserved a brain. There were a number of motions to dismiss on various Rule 12(b) grounds. The defendants moved to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(2), (6) and (7), but we’ll do our best to boil it down to the nitty gritty and help you ease on down the road.

(Editors’ Note:  Yes, we realize that we have used a similar title before, but it is hard to come up with something clever regarding Kansas, other than to taunt its overrated football team.  Also, we were worried that if we went with the Jiffy Lube angle, the post would be rated NC-17)

In their second amended complaint, the plaintiffs, who we understand are not munchkins, asserted violations of consumer protection statutes, negligence, and unjust enrichment against Jiffy Lube Incorporated (JLI) and two JLI franchises, R & P Enterprises, Inc. and Heartland Automotive, Inc. The complaint alleged that JLI engaged in a number of deceptive sales practices, including recommending that customers purchase unnecessary services and charging an improper environmental fee. There was no allegation that JLI had committed any labor violations in busting up the Lollipop Guild. One plaintiff was a Kansas resident who purchased services at a JLI franchise owned by R & P, a Kansas operation. Another plaintiff was a Tennessee resident who was a customer at JLI franchises in Tennessee owned by Heartland. Heartland also had locations (not visited by that plaintiff) in Kansas. In the second amended complaint, a number of additional named plaintiffs made similar claims.

First, the court dismissed the claims of the additional named plaintiffs because they were improperly added without seeking leave of court and in violation of the scheduling order. As a result, winged monkeys were dispatched to the plaintiffs’ attorney’s office to insure no further violations would occur. Next, the court dismissed the claims against Heartland because it found it lacked personal jurisdiction over Heartland under Kansas’ long-arm statute. 

Next up: the 12(b)(7) basis for dismissal for failure to join a party. JLI argued that the Tennessee plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because Heartland must be joined for those claims. The court found that Heartland couldn’t feasibly be joined since it lacked personal jurisdiction over the company and, therefore, it would not be subject to service of process. So, the court moved on to Rule 19(b) analysis (where joinder isn’t feasible) for determining if the Tennessee plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed.

And finally we reach CAFA. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Under the fourth factor of Rule 19(b) analysis, the court had to determine whether the plaintiff would have an adequate remedy if it dismissed the case for nonjoinder. The plaintiff first argued that he would not have an adequate remedy because it “would be cost prohibitive and there would be discovery difficulties.” The court didn’t buy that argument, reasoning that he could simply file a class action in Tennessee or any other forum where the court would have personal jurisdiction. He also argued that allowing the action to proceed without Heartland is consistent with the intent of CAFA. (We know; we were sort of surprised to find a plaintiff arguing that CAFA should apply so he could stay in Federal court, too. But, then, this is the land of Oz.) However, there, his argument hit an oil slick.

The court was not persuaded. It opined that the “abuses that led to CAFA have nothing to do with a court’s dismissal based on a failure to join an indispensable party.” It reasoned that CAFA isn’t intended to keep every class action in the federal courts, but just to allow more class actions to be brought there. The court determined that if it dismissed the Tennessee plaintiff’s claims, he could file his complaint in state court, which was not inconsistent with CAFA. Ultimately, the court determined that Heartland was an indispensable party as to the Tennessee plaintiff’s claims that he was improperly charged an environmental fee and so dismissed that claim against JLI. It found that Heartland was not indispensable as to other claims regarding JLI’s allegedly deceptive sales practices, however, so those claims slid on through. In the end, Heartland got to say, “There’s no place like home,” and head back to Tennessee. (We assume, to have suit filed against it there, so stay tuned…)

(Editors’ Note: the best summation of The Wizard of Oz was by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, who wrote, "Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.")