Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

AMANDA BARNARD STODDARD;

 

Plaintiff,

 

vs.

 

KIA MOTORS, AMERICA, INC., et al.;

 

Defendants.

Case No.: 20STCV08107
Hearing Date: July 16, 2020
   
[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

 

DEFENDANT KIA MOTORS AMERICA, INC.’S MOTION FOR MANDATORY VENUE TRANSFER

Defendant Kia Motors America, Inc.’s Motion for Mandatory Venue Transfer is GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This is a Lemon Law action. The Complaint alleges as follows. Plaintiff Amanda Barnard Stoddard (“Stoddard”) purchased a new 2018 Kia Soul on August 8, 2018 from Defendant Kia Motors America, Inc. (“Kia”), with express written warranties. (Compl. ¶ 6.) During the warranty period, the vehicle developed serious defects related to the engine, which Kia has been unable to repair. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 82.) Kia has failed to repair, replace, or make restitution for the defective vehicle. (Compl. ¶ 82.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Stoddard filed the Complaint on February 26, 2020, alleging seven causes of action:

  1. Violation of Civil Code 1793.2(D)
  2. Violation of Civil Code 1793.2(B)
  3. Violation of Civil Code 1793.2(A)(3)
  4. Breach of Express Written Warranty
  5. Breach of the Implied Warranty of Merchantability
  6. Fraud by Omission
  7. Violation of Consumer Legal Remedies Act

On April 29, 2020, Kia filed the instant Motion to Transfer Venue.

On July 2, 2020, Stoddard filed an Opposition.

On July 7, 2020, Kia filed a Reply.

DISCUSSION

 

  • JUDICIAL NOTICE

 

Where the motion is based on a matter of which the court may take judicial notice pursuant to Section 452 or 453 of the Evidence Code, the matter shall be specified in the notice of motion, or in the supporting points and authorities, except as the court may otherwise permit. (California Code of Civil Procedure §438(d)). Any request for judicial notice must be made in a separate document listing the items for which notice is requested. (CRC 3.1113(l)). Judicial notice may be taken of¿“(h) Facts and propositions that are not reasonably subject to dispute and are capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to sources of reasonably indisputable accuracy.” (Evid. Code § 452.)¿

Kia seeks judicial notice of its business address as displayed on the California Secretary of State website for Kia Motors America, Inc. The Court GRANTS this request.

 

  • MOTION FOR CHANGE OF VENUE

 

Kia argues that the proper venue for this action is Orange County, California. (Motion at p. 3.) Kia contends that the venue is proper in Orange County under Code of Civil Procedure § 395 on the grounds that Kia performed no actions related to the vehicle in Los Angeles County, and that venue is proper in Orange County because Kia’s principal place of business is in Irvine, Orange County. (Motion at p. 4.)

On timely motion, the court must order a transfer of venue “when the court designated in the complaint is not the proper court.” (Code of Civ. Proc., §§ 396b, 397(a).)  “Venue is determined based on the complaint on file at the time the motion to change venue is made.”  (Brown v. Superior Court (1984) 37 Cal.3d 477, 482; Haurat v. Superior Court for Los Angeles County (1966) 241 Cal.App.2d 330, 337 [“Venue is determined on the basis of the complaint as it stands at the time the motion to change is made, and the plaintiff is not permitted to make a subsequent election of theories by proposed amendments thereto”].)  In an action involving personal injuries, venue is proper where a defendant resides or where the injuries occurred. (Code of Civ. Proc., § 395(a).)  A defendant is entitled to have an action removed to the county of its residence when it appears that none of the other defendants are residents of the county where the action is brought.  (K.R.I. Partnership v. Superior Court (2004) 120

“If the transfer is sought solely, or is ordered, because the action or proceeding was commenced in a court other than that designated as proper . . . those costs and fees, including any expenses and attorney’s fees awarded to the defendant pursuant to Section 396b, shall be paid by the plaintiff before the transfer is made.”  (Code of Civ. Proc., § 399, subd. (a).)

The court may, on motion change the venue “(a) When the court designated in the complaint is not the proper court; (b) When there is reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be had therein; (c) When the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice would be promoted by the change; (d) When from any cause there is no judge of the court qualified to act.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 397.)

Here, Kia argues that Los Angeles is an improper venue because Kia’s principal place of business is in Orange County. (Motions at p. 4.) Kia untimely files the Declaration of Michele Cameron in a Notice of Errata filed on July 24, 2019. Kia presents evidence that its principal place of business is located in Irvine, CA. (Cameron Decl. ¶ 2.)

The burden is on the moving party to establish facts justifying the transfer.  (Mission Imports, Inc. v. Superior Court¿(1982) 31 Cal.3d 921, 928.)  Absent “an affirmative showing to the contrary, the presumption is that the county in which the title of the action shows that it is brought is, prima facie, the proper county for the commencement and trial of the action.”  (Ibid.; Fontaine v. Superior Court¿(2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 830, 836.)  The moving party may submit declarations containing admissible evidence in support of the motion to transfer venue.  (Mission Imports, supra, 31 Cal.3d at p. 928.)  Any ambiguities in the complaint will be construed against the plaintiff towards the end that the defendant will not be deprived of the right to a trial in the county of his or her residence.  (Neet v. Holmes (1942) 19 Cal.2d 605, 612.)

A defendant is entitled to have an action removed to the county of his residence when it appears that none of the other defendants are residents of the county where the action is brought.  (K.R.I. Partnership v. Superior Court (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 490, 504.)  A corporation may be sued in the county where the contract is made or is to be performed; where the obligation or liability arises or the breach occurs; or in the county where the principal place of business is situated.  (Code of Civ. Proc., § 395.5.)  “For purposes of venue, a corporation has been deemed bound by its designation of a principal place of business in corporate documents filed with the Secretary of State.”  (Rosas v. Superior Court (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 671, 673-674.)

With the evidence filed by Kia, the Court determines that Kia’s principal place of business is in Irvine, California within Orange County. Plaintiff’s arguments based on Kia being a foreign corporation are without merit. (Oppo. at pp. 2-5.) The Court agrees with Kia that the Complaint raises no allegations of facts regarding where Plaintiff’s claims may have occurred and that the only proper venue is the county of Kia’s residence. (Reply at p. 3.) Therefore, pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure section 397, subdivision (a), Los Angeles is not the proper venue and Kia is entitled to have the action removed to the county of its residence, Orange County.

Accordingly, the Motion to Transfer Venue is GRANTED.

DATED:  July 16, 2020

______________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court