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Richardson v. Samsung Electronics Co.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

December 4, 2018



          Kimberly A. Swank, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) [DE #19]. Plaintiffs have responded [DE #25], and Defendants have replied [DE #27]. Where this matter has been referred to the undersigned and the parties have not consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge, Defendants' motion is undertaken pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) for a memorandum and recommendation. For the reasons stated below, it is recommended that Defendants' motion be granted and Plaintiffs' complaint be dismissed, in its entirety.


         Plaintiffs Shasity Darshal Richardson and her husband, Johnathan Richardson, brought this action for injuries allegedly sustained by Mrs. Richardson as a result of an exploding cellular phone manufactured or distributed by Defendants Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Samsung Electronics America, Inc., Samsung C&T America, Inc., Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC[1] (collectively “the Samsung Defendants”), and United States Cellular Corporation (“U.S. Cellular”). (Compl. [DE #1] at 3-4.) Mrs. Richardson entered into a written sales contract for her “Samsung Galaxy S4” cellular device and cellular service with Defendant U.S. Cellular. (Id. at 3, 6.)

         In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that on February 4, 2014, Mrs. Richardson was lying on her couch with her cellular phone beside her and awoke to find her cellular phone, couch, hair and arm were on fire. (Compl. at 3.) Mr. Richardson proceeded to extinguish the flames on his wife and couch. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs filed their complaint in the Superior Court of Lenoir County, North Carolina, on February 2, 2018, asserting the following causes of action against all Defendants: breach of contract (Compl. at 6-7), breach of express warranty (id. at 11-12), breach of implied warranty of merchantability (id. at 12-13), breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (id. at 13-14), and loss of consortium (id. at 14-15). Plaintiffs also assert claims against the Samsung Defendants for negligence (id. at 8-9) and products liability under Chapter 99B of the North Carolina General Statutes (id. at 9-10). Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 15-17.)

         Defendants removed the action to this court [DE #1] and subsequently filed their motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. (Defs.' Mot. J. Pleadings [DE #19].) Plaintiffs have responded, arguing that the limitations period was tolled under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 35(A)-1101(7) due to Mrs. Richardson's disability of incompetency (Pls.' Resp. Mem. Defs.' Mot. J. Pleadings [DE #25].) Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiffs' response arguing insufficient allegation of fact regarding Mrs. Richardson's mental incompetency. (Defs.' Reply Mot. J. Pleadings [DE #27].)


         I. Rule 12(c) Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) is intended to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint.” Great Divide Ins. Co. v. Midnight Rodeo, Inc., No. 5:08-CV-204-F, 2010 WL 2077162, at *2 (E.D. N.C. May 24, 2010).

         In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court applies the same standard as for motions made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Burbach Broad Co. v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 406 (4th Cir. 2002). To survive dismissal, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff alleges factual content “that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged” and shows more than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Ordinarily, a complaint need contain simply “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, a complaint is insufficient if it offers merely “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Thus, when a party moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), the factual allegations of the complaint are taken as true, whereas those of the answer are taken as true only to the extent they have not been denied or do not conflict with those of the complaint. Pledger v. N.C. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 7 F.Supp.2d 705, 707 (E.D. N.C. 1998).

         II. Analysis

         A. North Carolina ...

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