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S&S Construction, LLC v. United Rentals (North America), Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama

July 18, 2017

S&S CONSTRUCTION, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED RENTALS (NORTH AMERICA), INC., and UNITED RENTALS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge. [1]

         Plaintiff S&S Construction, LLC, asserts putative class claims against Defendants United Rentals (North America), Inc., and United Rentals, Inc. (Am. Compl. (Dkt. 14.) Plaintiff asserts claims for breach of contract and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act ("FDUTPA"), Fla. Stat. §§ 501.201 et seq. Pending before the court are Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims (the "Motion to Dismiss") (Defs. 2d Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. 18)), Plaintiffs motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (the "Motion to Amend") (PL Mot to Am. (Dkt. 23)), and Defendants' application for a hearing on the pending motions (the "Application for Status Conference") (Defs, Status Conf, Appl. (Dkt. 38)). For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and RESERVES RULING on the remaining arguments therein; GRANTS IN PART Plaintiffs Motion to Amend; and DENIES Defendants' Application for Status Conference.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiffs Allegations

         Defendants operate "one of the largest equipment rental companies in the United States."[2] (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendants "charge[] a rental rate which is established in a uniform, pre-printed contract." (Id.) "[I]n addition to this rate, " Defendants' customers may be charged three types of charges (the "Charges"): (1) "Refueling Charges, " which apply "[w]hen a customer rents equipment which runs on fuel and does not return the equipment fully fueled"; (2) "Environmental Charges, " which, according to Defendants' contracts, are "designed to recover [Defendants'] direct and indirect expenses for handling, managing and disposing of waste products, hazardous materials, and related administrative costs"; and (3) "Pickup Charges and Delivery Charges, " which customers pay when Defendants deliver or retrieve rented equipment. (Id. ¶¶ 2 - 5.)

         Plaintiff, "an Alabama limited liability company, " has "rented from [Defendants'] stores in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and [has] paid each of the [Charges] at issue in this case." (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff offers no further allegations regarding its contractual history with Defendants concerning, for example, the number of contracts entered into in each state, the date on which each contract was executed or performed, or the amount Plaintiff paid in rental fees or Charges. Plaintiff did not attach example contract documents to any pleadings.

         Plaintiff asserts that the Charges are unlawful because the amounts charged do not reflect Defendants' actual underlying costs. (Id. ¶¶ 2-5.) For example, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' Refueling Charge bills customers for "much more than [the actual] cost of fuel." (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff does not provide numerical estimates of the alleged overcharge amounts.

         B. Plaintiffs Putative Class Claims

         Plaintiff asserts putative class claims for breach of contract (the "Contract Class") and violations of FDUTPA (the "FDUTPA Subclass"). The Contract Class would include all persons "who rented equipment from United stores located in Alabama, Georgia, or Florida" using "the standard pre-printed, written contract, " and who paid at least one of the Charges "during the applicable statute of limitations."[3] (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants "breached the written contracts at issue" by charging "excessive and unlawful" amounts. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         The FDUTPA Subclass would include all persons "who rented equipment from United stores located in Florida, " and who paid at least one of the Charges "during the applicable statute of limitations."[4] (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff asserts that members of the putative FDUTPA Subclass "have been harmed by [Defendants'] unconscionable, deceptive, and unfair acts and practices" because, although Defendants characterize the Charges as "legitimate" fees that are "designed to recover the costs" Defendants incur for particular purposes, "none of these fees bear any relation to any increased costs nor any actual costs incurred by [Defendants.]" (Id. ¶ 54.)

         Plaintiff defines several exclusions from the proposed class and subclass, including "all claims arising out of a contract that contains a class action waiver or an arbitration clause" and "all claims arising out of a contract that disclosed the precise amount of the Environmental Charge or Refueling Charge on the front of the contract, " (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

         C. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated this action on September 25, 2015. (Compl. (Dkt. 1).) Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on November 10, 2015, asserting arguments as to standing, personal jurisdiction, venue, and the sufficiency of Plaintiff s allegations. (Defs. 1st Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. 12); Defs. Mem. in Supp. of 1st Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. 12-1).) On November 23, 2015, District Judge Myron H. Thompson[5] issued an order finding that Plaintiff had failed to establish diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). (Nov. 23, 2015, Order (Dkt. 13).) Judge Thompson ordered that the case be dismissed without prejudice unless Plaintiff filed an appropriately amended complaint within seven days. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on November 30, 2015. (Am. Compl.) On December 17, 2015, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, asserting substantially similar arguments as in their prior motion. (Compare Defs. Mem. in Supp. of 2d Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs. Mem.") (Dkt. 19) with Defs. Mem. in Supp. of 1st Mot. to Dismiss.)

         On April 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Amend. (PL Mot. to Am.) "The [Proposed] Second Amended Complaint is identical to the First Amended Complaint except that the Second Amended Complaint adds a single additional class representative, " Wells Land ...


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