MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Andrew Kampuries (hereinafter, "plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings this action asserting a claim for negligence, including design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn, and a claim for fraudulent concealment.
Defendants, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (hereinafter, "Honda"), TRW Automotive Holding Corp (hereinafter, "TRW"), and Autoliv Asp Inc. (hereinafter, "Autoliv") (collectively, hereinafter, "defendants") now move to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions to dismiss are granted. In particular, the Court concludes that plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, plaintiff has failed to state a
A. Factual Background
The following facts are taken from plaintiff's filings, and are not findings of fact by the Court. Instead, the Court will assume these facts to be true and, for purposes of the pending motion to dismiss, will construe them in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party.
On December 5, 2007, plaintiff, while driving his 2006 Honda Civic, drifted off the road and struck a tree. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Honda's Mot. to Dismiss (hereinafter, "Honda Opp'n") 13, ECF No. 42.) Plaintiff claims that, although he was traveling at 55 miles per hour, his airbag did not deploy upon impact. (Id.)
Over seven years later, on April 6, 2015, allegedly prompted by an October 2014 recall notice he received concerning malfunctioning Takata brand airbags installed in certain Honda vehicles,
Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed September 21, 2015, alleges only that "this was negligent and [r]eckless not alerting the public for years and hided (sic) this [d]eath trap car from my self (sic) and family,[ ]not knowing if the airbags will deploy or not." (Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 33.) His oppositions to defendants' motions to dismiss elaborate somewhat on these allegations, asserting that "[d]uring the accident, the Autoliv[ ]airbag with trw.aribag (sic) sensor installed in the 2006 Honda [C]ivic failed to deploy," and that "[t]he speed and circumstances of the accident were such that the airbag, if not defective, should have deployed." (Honda Opp'n 13; see also Pl.'s Opp'n to Autoliv and TRW's Mots. to Dismiss (hereinafter, "Autoliv/TRW Opp'n") 2, ECF No. 54.)
He further contends that, "upon information and belief, Honda has known of the [i]nflator [d]efect in the Honda airbags in Honda's vehicles since 2000 s (sic) ... [and] [t]he [v]ehicle [m]anufacturer [d]efendants
Finally, he states that "[t]his is a cause of action for negligence, including design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn." (Id. at 2.) However, based on the allegations in his amended complaint and oppositions, it appears he also seeks to assert a claim for fraudulent concealment.
B. Procedural History
Honda filed its motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint on October 14, 2015 (ECF No. 31), and plaintiff submitted a document, presumably intended to be his opposition, on November 2, 2015 (ECF No. 42). On November 23, 2015, Autoliv moved to dismiss (ECF No. 48), and on December 2, 2015, TRW moved to dismiss (ECF No. 52). Plaintiff filed a letter with the Court on December 21, 2015 (ECF No. 54), on which he wrote "opposition," though he did not specify whether he was responding to Autoliv's motion, TRW's motion, or both. Honda, Autoliv, and TRW replied on November 30, 2015, January 6, 2016, and January 13, 2016, respectively. (See ECF Nos. 49, 57, 58.) The Court has considered all of the parties' submissions.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See, e.g., Cleveland v. Caplaw Enters., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir.2006); Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir.2005). "In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege a plausible set of facts sufficient `to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Operating Local 649 Annuity Trust Fund v. Smith Barney Fund Mgmt. LLC, 595 F.3d 86, 91 (2d Cir.2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). This standard does not require "heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.
The Supreme Court clarified the appropriate pleading standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, setting forth a two-pronged approach for courts deciding a motion to dismiss. 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The Court instructed district courts first to "identify pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. Second, if a complaint contains "well pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id.
The Court notes that in adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it is entitled to consider: "(1) facts alleged in the complaint and documents attached to it or incorporated in it by reference, (2) documents `integral' to the complaint and relied upon in it, even if not attached or incorporated by reference, (3) documents or information contained in defendant's motion papers if plaintiff has knowledge or possession of the material and relied on it in framing the complaint, (4) public disclosure documents required by law to be, and that have been, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and (5) facts of which judicial notice may properly be taken under Rule
Finally, where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, courts are "`obliged to construe his pleadings liberally.'" Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir.2008) (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)); see also McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir.1999) (stating that a pro se plaintiff's pleadings must be interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest" (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). However, a pro se plaintiff's complaint, while liberally interpreted, still must "`state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir.2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868); see also Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir.2009).
A. Timeliness of Claims
1. Statutes of Limitations
"It has long been established as a matter of federal law that state statutes of limitations govern the timeliness of state law claims under federal diversity jurisdiction[,] [and that] [s]tate law also determines the related questions of what events serve to commence an action and to toll the statute of limitations in such cases." Personis v. Oiler, 889 F.2d 424, 426 (2d Cir.1989).
In addition, "[b]ecause the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, the defendant bears the burden of establishing by prima facie proof that the limitations period has expired since the plaintiff's claims accrued." Overall v. Estate of Klotz, 52 F.3d 398, 403 (2d Cir.1995). "However, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that a particular statute of limitation has been tolled." Voiceone Commc'ns, LLC v. Google Inc., No. 12 CIV. 9433(PGG), 2014 WL 10936546, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2014) (quoting Cuccolo v. Lipsky, Goodkin & Co., 826 F.Supp. 763, 767 n. 3 (S.D.N.Y.1993)).
Plaintiff asserts a claim for "negligence, including design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn." (Autoliv/TRW Opp'n 2.) Negligence causes of action relating to personal injuries sustained as a result of an allegedly defective product are subject to a three-year statute of limitations in New York. See Hanlon v. Gliatech, Inc., No. CV-07-1737 SJF AKT, 2008 WL 4773430, at *2, *4 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2008) (recognizing that three-year statute of limitations applies to negligence claims that assert that "a defective product has been the cause of personal injury"); see also N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 214(5).
Plaintiff also makes a claim for fraudulent concealment. In New York, fraud claims must be asserted within the greater of "six years from the date the cause of action accrued or two years from the time the plaintiff ... discovered the fraud, or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it."
2. Timeliness of Negligence Claim
"It is well established that in any action to recover damages for negligence[,]... the plaintiff's claim accrues upon the date of injury," Brooklyn Union Gas Co. v. Hunter Turbo Corp., 241 A.D.2d 505, 660 N.Y.S.2d 877, 878 (1997), "even if the plaintiff is unaware that he or she has a cause of action" at the time of injury, Woodlaurel, Inc. v. Wittman, 199 A.D.2d 497, 606 N.Y.S.2d 39, 40 (1993). See also Kronos, Inc. v. AVX Corp., 81 N.Y.2d 90, 595 N.Y.S.2d 931, 612 N.E.2d 289, 291-92 (1993) ("[A] tort cause of action cannot accrue until an injury is sustained. That, rather than the wrongful act of defendant or discovery of the injury by plaintiff, is the relevant date for marking accrual." (internal citations omitted)). "The rationale is that the injury puts the putative plaintiff on inquiry notice and, therefore, charges him or her `with responsibility for investigating, within the limitations period, all potential claims and all potential defendants.'" Zimmerman v. Poly Prep Country Day Sch., 888 F.Supp.2d 317, 337 (E.D.N.Y.2012) (quoting Doe v. Archdiocese of Wash., 114 Md.App. 169, 689 A.2d 634, 644 (1997) and citing Zumpano v. Quinn, 6 N.Y.3d 666, 816 N.Y.S.2d 703, 849 N.E.2d 926 (2006)).
Thus, plaintiff's negligence claim accrued on December 5, 2007, the date he was injured when the purportedly defective airbag did not deploy, rather than, as he contends, in October 2014, when he supposedly discovered that his injuries were attributable to defendants' alleged negligence in designing his airbag. See, e.g., Greenwald v. City of New York, No. 06-CV-2864 RJD JMA, 2012 WL 6962297, at *1, *8 (E.D.N.Y. July 19, 2012) ("New York law is clear that ... statutes of limitations commence running upon commission of a wrong, irrespective of a plaintiff's ignorance of that wrong or its cause."); Caronia v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., No. 06-CV-224 CBA/SMG, 2010 WL 520558, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2010) ("[N]egligence claims accrue, at latest, at the time of the injury caused by [the defendant's] allegedly defective product."), aff'd, 715 F.3d 417 (2d Cir.2013), certified question accepted, 21 N.Y.3d 937, 967 N.Y.S.2d 892, 990 N.E.2d 130 (2013), and certified question answered, 22 N.Y.3d 439, 982 N.Y.S.2d 40, 5 N.E.3d 11 (2013); Owens v. Presbyterian Hosp. in City of New York, No. 94 CIV. 6004 (RPP), 1995 WL 464950, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 4, 1995) (noting that "[t]he New York Court of Appeals has consistently
Because plaintiff's claim accrued at the time of his accident in 2007, but his lawsuit was not filed until 2015, his negligence claim is untimely and must be dismissed.
3. Timeliness of Fraudulent Concealment Claim
A fraud claim, in contrast, can accrue on the date that the plaintiff discovers the fraud. See N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 213(8). As indicated above, it is plaintiff's position that he did not discover the supposed fraud until he received the October 2014 recall notice, alerting him to defects with Takata airbags. This contention is improbable (and, in fact, impossible).
B. Sufficiency of Fraudulent Concealment Claim
Moreover, in the alternative, even if it were timely, the Court concludes that plaintiff's fraudulent concealment claim fails to state a cause of action. "A cause of action sounding in fraud must allege that the defendant knowingly misrepresented or concealed a material fact for the purpose of inducing another party to rely upon it, and that the other party justifiably relied upon such misrepresentation
Here, plaintiff has failed to state a claim for fraudulent concealment. Plaintiff offers only the conclusory assertion that defendants knew about defects in the airbags since 2000, but "concealed from or failed to notify [him] and the public of the full and complete nature of the [i]nflator [d]efect ... [and] knowingly made misrepresentations about the quality, reliability, characteristics and performance of the vehicles." (See Autoliv/TRW Opp'n 3.) He makes no other factual allegations to support his claim that defendants were aware that his airbag was defective, that they concealed this information from him, or that they made any misrepresentations to him. Such flimsy and unfounded allegations are insufficient to make out a claim for fraudulent concealment. See, e.g., Schwatka, 965 N.Y.S.2d at 550-51 (dismissing fraudulent concealment claim because the complaint was "devoid of any factual details regarding the manner in which the defendants knowingly concealed their alleged knowledge of the defects"); see also Rafter v. Liddle, 704 F.Supp.2d 370, 377-78 (S.D.N.Y.2010) (plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support a fraudulent concealment claim where allegations were "general, conclusory, and unsupported by factual underpinnings" and the plaintiff failed to allege "with any particularity what Defendants did to conceal any material information"). Nor has he provided any allegations suggesting that defendants owed him a duty to disclose material information. See Kallista, S.A. v. White & Williams LLP, 27 N.Y.S.3d 332, 345 (Sup. Ct.2016) (dismissing fraudulent concealment cause of action where complaint was "barren of any allegation that Defendants had a duty to disclose material information... or any facts that would support the imposition of such a duty").
Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to state a claim for fraudulent concealment.
IV. Leave to Replead
Although plaintiff has not requested leave to replead, the Court has also considered whether plaintiff should be given an opportunity to do so. The Second Circuit has emphasized that "[a] pro se complaint is to be read liberally. Certainly the court should not dismiss without granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated." Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir.2000) (quotation marks omitted). Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of
For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint should be granted.
The Court also acknowledges that there are other cases that hold that the claim does not accrue until the plaintiff learns of the design defect. See, e.g., In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 200 F.Supp.2d 983, 990 (S.D.Ind.2002) (concluding that the plaintiffs' causes of action to recover for injuries sustained when their tires exploded, causing them to crash, accrued, not when they "knew that their injuries were caused by their tires," but rather, once they learned "that their injuries were caused by a defect in the tires"); Anson v. Am. Motors Corp., 155 Ariz. 420, 747 P.2d 581, 586 (Ct.App.1987). However, in addition to being inconsistent with the law in New York, the Court is also persuaded that this approach is not appropriate in the instant case because plaintiff could have had no question that the airbag was defective when it did not deploy, given that an airbag's singular purpose is to inflate upon impact.