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Drake v. Mercedes Benz USA

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 30, 2016

E. DRAKE, Plaintiff,


          Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge.

         On August 29, 2016, pro se Plaintiff Eric Drake (“Plaintiff”) filed “Plaintiff's Original Complaint” (“Complaint”) and a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (“Application”). [Dkt. nos. 1, 2.] The Court has considered these matters without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(e) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the Complaint and the relevant legal authority, this Court HEREBY DISMISSES the Complaint WITHOUT PREJUDICE - in other words, Plaintiff has LEAVE TO FILE an amended complaint. This Court will reserve ruling on the Motion until Plaintiff files his amended complaint.


         The Defendants in this action are Mercedes Benz USA (“MBUSA”) and Autohaus LLC (“AH, ” collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges that jurisdiction and venue are proper in this district court because “AH sells automobiles in Hawaii” and “MBUSA sells automobile parts in Hawaii County, Hawaii and worldwide.”[1] [Complaint at pg. 1.] However, the events that form the basis of Plaintiff's claims occurred in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. [Id. at ¶ 6.] Although Plaintiff alleges that Defendants each “expected or should have expected that its acts would have consequences within the United States, ” [id. at ¶ 9, ] he does not allege that Defendants' actions had any consequences in Hawai`i. Plaintiff states he is “a citizen of the United States, ” [id. at ¶ 6, ] and his address of record is a Texas address [id. at pg. 26]. Based on the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff has no apparent ties to Hawai`i.

         Plaintiff alleges that: he purchased a Mercedes Benz spoiler from AH on May 27, 2014; and MBUSA sold the spoiler to him through AH. [Id. at ¶ 12.] According to Plaintiff, “the spoiler was defective because the product label had a pass [sic] due expiration date” and, because of the age of the tape, it would not “properly adhere to the deck-lid (or trunk) of the car without its failing.” [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' conduct in selling the defective spoiler constituted deceptive trade practices, in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice statute and federal antitrust laws. [Id. at ¶¶ 12-14.] In addition, Plaintiff alleges that AH discriminated against him because of his race when he attempted to return the spoiler, and also discriminated against him on a prior occasion when he attempted to purchase a vehicle from AH. He further alleges that AH's counsel committed ethical violations when Plaintiff retained an attorney to try to negotiate with AH's counsel to settle Plaintiff's disputes with AH. [Id. at ¶¶ 15-20.]

         Plaintiff alleges the following claims: race discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983; deprivation of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a; gross negligence; fraud; breach of contract; antitrust violations/deceptive and unfair trade practices; a claim for specific performance; a claim seeking exemplary damages and the imposition of vicarious liability based on conspiracy, actual authority agency liability, and respondeat superior; negligence and negligent misrepresentation; a claim for declaratory relief; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and a claim seeking attorney's fees, costs, and interest. [Id. at pgs. 7-24.]


         “Federal courts can authorize the commencement of any suit without prepayment of fees or security by a person who submits an affidavit that demonstrates he is unable to pay.” Smallwood v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation, CV. NO. 16-00505 DKW-KJM, 2016 WL 4974948, at *1 (D. Hawai`i Sept. 16, 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1)).

The Court subjects each civil action commenced pursuant to Section 1915(a) to mandatory screening and can order the dismissal of any claims it finds “frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “not only permits but requires” the court to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (holding that “the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners”).

Id. at *3.

         In addition, this Court has recognized that the following standards apply in the screening analysis:

Plaintiff is appearing pro se; consequently, the court liberally construes her pleadings. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (“The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.” (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam))). The court also recognizes that “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 (9th. [sic] Cir. 2000).
Despite the liberal pro se pleading standard, the court may dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on its own motion. See Omar v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 (9th Cir. 1987) (“A trial court may dismiss a claim sua sponte under [Rule] 12(b)(6). Such a dismissal may be made without notice where the claimant cannot possibly win relief.”); Ricotta v. California, 4 F.Supp.2d 961, 968 n.7 (S.D. Cal. 1998) (“The Court can dismiss a claim sua sponte for a Defendant who has not filed a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).”); see also Baker v. Dir., U.S. Parole Comm'n, 916 F.2d 725, 727 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (holding that district court may dismiss cases sua sponte pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) without notice where plaintiff could not prevail on complaint as alleged). Additionally, a paid complaint that is “obviously frivolous” does not confer federal subject matter jurisdiction and may be dismissed sua sponte before service of process. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227 n.6 (9th Cir. 1984); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 (2004) (“[I]t is the obligation of both district court and counsel to be alert to jurisdictional requirements.”). “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ” possessing “only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” United States v. Marks, 530 F.3d 799, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). The assumption is that the district court lacks jurisdiction. See Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. Accordingly, a “party invoking the federal court's jurisdiction has the burden of proving the actual existence of subject matter jurisdiction.” Thompson v. McCombe, 99 F.3d 352, 353 (9th Cir. 1996).

Mather v. Nakasone, Civil No. 13-00436 LEK-KSC, 2013 WL 4788930, at *1-2 (D. Hawai`i Sept. 5, 2013) (alterations in Mather) ...

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