Makuch v. Stephen Pontiac-Cadillac Inc.
When ruling on the $50,000 jurisdictional threshold in a Magnuson Moss Warranty Act action, a court may include punitive damages, if punitives are available under applicable state law. The plaintiff, Mariusz Makuch, sued the defendant, Stephen Pontiac-Cadillac Inc., alleging it falsely represented that a motor vehicle was "new," although the motor vehicle previously had been in an accident. Makuch alleged that the defendant car dealer violated the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, the Uniform Commercial Code and CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The defendant dealer moved to dismiss. The District Court considered whether the plaintiff's complaint met the $50,000 jurisdictional threshold, exclusive of interest and attorneys' fees, provided in the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, 15 United States Code §2310(d). The plaintiff alleged that the plaintiff's actual damages were $10,000 to $12,000 and that the plaintiff's punitive damages are expected to exceed $50,000. "Punitive damages," wrote the District Court, "should be included in determining jurisdiction, if they are available under applicable state law." In Connecticut, punitive damages are available in a breach-of-warranty action, if the plaintiff proves that the defendant engaged in conduct with a bad motive or exhibited reckless indifference to the rights of others. The plaintiff met the jurisdictional threshold, and the District Court denied the defendant dealer's motion to dismiss.