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Moretti v. Hertz Corporation

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 23, 2015

ENRICO MORETTI, individually and on behalf of Class Members, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE HERTZ CORPORATION; DOLLAR THRIFTY AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC.; and HOTWIRE, INC., Defendants.

Brian E. Farnan and Michael J. Farnan, FARNAN LLP, Wilmington, DE, Adam J. Gutride, Seth A. Safier, and Marie A. McCrary, GUTRIDE SAFIER LLP, San Francisco, CA, Attorneys for Plaintiff Enrico Moretti.

Raymond J. DiCamillo and Susan M. Hannigan, RICHARDS, LAYTON & FINGER, P.A., Wilmington, DE, Ross B. Bricker, John F. Ward, Jr., and Jeffrey A. Koppy, JENNER & BLOCK LLP, Chicago, IL, Attorneys for Defendants The Hertz Corporation and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Inc.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Enrico Moretti ("Plaintiff"), individually and on behalf of putative class members, filed this action against defendants The Hertz Corporation ("Hertz Corporation"), Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. ("Hertz Global"), Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Inc. ("DTAG"), Hotwire, Inc. ("Hotwire"), and Does 1 Through 25 ("Unnamed Defendants") on May 24, 2013 in the Superior Court of California, alleging violations of the California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq. & 17500, et seq. ; and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, § 1750, et seq. ; as well as fraud, deceit, and/or misrepresentations under common and statutory law. (D.I. 1 at 12, 32-40) On June 27, 2013, the action was removed to the Northern District of California, based on diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2) & d(5). On April 15, 2014, the action was transferred to the District of Delaware. (D.I. 55) Motions to dismiss were filed on May 15, 2014 by Hotwire (D.I. 63) and by Hertz Corporation, Hertz Global, and DTAG (D.I. 65). In response, on June 2, 2014, Plaintiff mooted the motions by filing a First Amended Complaint ("Complaint"), now listing only Hertz Corporation, DTAG, and Hotwire as defendants. (D.I. 69)

On June 19, 2014, Hertz Corporation and DTAG (collectively, "Defendants") filed the pending Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction over the Subject Matter Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint as Against the Hertz Corporation and DTAG Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). (D.I. 71) In addition to opposing Defendants' motion, Plaintiff has requested the opportunity to conduct jurisdictional discovery or to file a Second Amended Complaint. ( See D.I. 74 at 8-9 nn.1-2) Briefing on the pending motion was completed on July 17, 2014 (D.I. 72, 74, 75) and the Court heard oral argument on March 18, 2015 ( see Transcript ("Tr.")).

For the reasons that follow, the Court will permit Plaintiff to file a Second Amended Complaint, deny without prejudice to renew Defendants' motion to dismiss, grant Defendants' alternative motion for a more definite statement, and deny Plaintiff's request for jurisdictional discovery.

II. BACKGROUND

Hertz Corporation is a leading car rental business that operates through the brand names "Hertz, " "Dollar Rent-A-Car, " "Thrifty Car Rental, " and "Firefly." (D.I. 69 at ¶ 18) Dollar Thrifty ("DTAG") is a car rental business that was acquired by and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hertz on November 19, 2012. ( Id. at ¶ 6) Plaintiff alleges that "[a]t all times alleged in this Class Action Complaint, ... each of the Defendants was an agent, servant, representative, officer, director, partner or employee of the other Defendants, " and that "each of them, were members of, and engaged in, a joint venture, partnership and common enterprise." ( Id. at ¶¶ 9-10)

Hertz Corporation's 2013 Annual Report stated: "Each of our brands generally maintains separate airport counters, reservations and reservation systems, marketing and all other customer contact activities, however a single management team manages all four brands. " ( Id. at ¶ 19) (emphasis added) Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges:

Hertz Corporation has integrated the Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty brands though combined marketing, promotion, reservation, fleet management, insurance, information technology functions, back office processing and procurement. All domestic and international reservation[ s] for all Hertz brands are processed in a Hertz facility in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thus, although Dollar Thrifty is a subsidiary of Hertz Corporation, the actual operations pertinent to the Dollar and Thrifty brands are managed and performed by Hertz Corporation.

( Id. at ¶ 20 (further stating that "[f]or the remainder of this complaint, Hertz Corporation and Dollar Thrifty are referred to collectively herein as "Hertz")) At the hearing, Plaintiff clarified that he alleges Hertz Corporation is responsible for setting the relevant policies, and DTAG and the other Hertz Corporation brands are responsible for implementing and enforcing these policies. ( See Tr. at 20:15-23, 21:14-25, 23:16-25:1, 25:17-21, 27:1-28:1, 30:9-31:2, 31:18-32:5, 33:12-34:5, 35:2-13, 37:6-17, 38:2-8)

Hertz Corporation conducts some of its operations through franchisees which are managed by Hertz Corporation and share a percentage of revenues with Hertz Corporation. ( See id. at ¶ 21) Hertz Corporation also owns and operates several websites ("the Hertz Websites"), through which it accepts rental reservations and provides information about daily rental rates, fees and taxes, and rental policies. ( See id. at ¶¶ 22-23) Additionally, Hertz Corporation accepts reservations through third party websites (''the Travel Websites") which link directly to Hertz Websites to provide consumers with additional information contained therein. ( See id. at ¶ 24)

Hotwire owns and operates one of the Travel Websites, www.hotwire.com ("the Hotwire Website"), which provides information obtained from Hertz Corporation about daily rental rates, fees and taxes, and rental policies, as well as Hotwire Website rules, regulations, disclaimers, and disclosures. ( Id. at ¶ 25) Plaintiff alleges that through its "agency" business model, Hotwire provides users with information about Hertz Corporation's rental rates and terms, takes the customer's reservation, provides the reservation information to Hertz Corporation, and then is provided a percentage of revenue actually collected by Hertz Corporation as well as an accounting of services actually provided. ( See id. at ¶¶ 26-28) According to Plaintiff, "Hertz monitors the information that Hotwire provides to customers regarding Hertz car rentals to ...


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