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Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District v. Fieldturf USA, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 31, 2016

MIDDLETON-CROSS PLAINS AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Plaintiff,
v.
FIELDTURF USA, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         In 2007, plaintiff Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (the District) purchased a new, synthetic athletic field for Middleton High School from defendant FieldTurf USA, Inc. At the time, neither party knew that FieldTurf had manufactured the field with defective synthetic fibers. A few years later, FieldTurf learned that a number of its fields were prematurely deteriorating: customers complained, and independent testing confirmed the complaints. FieldTurf eventually sued-and settled with-the fiber manufacturer. FieldTurf never notified the District of the synthetic fiber's problems. In 2014, the District discovered that its field was prematurely wearing. The District sued FieldTurf for failing to repair or replace the field, in violation of the purchase agreement's express warranty, and for failing to tell the District about the defect fiber.

         Now FieldTurf has moved to dismiss one of the District's breach of contract claims, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 17. FieldTurf also asks the court to strike portions of the amended complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(f). The court will deny the motion in all respects.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

         The court draws the following facts from the amended complaint, construing the allegations “in the light most favorable to [the District], accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in [its] favor.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         FieldTurf manufactures and sells synthetic grass turf fields. The District purchased one such field from FieldTurf in 2007. The purchase agreement provided that if the field “proves to be defective in material or workmanship, resulting in premature wear, during normal and ordinary use of the [Field] . . . within 8 years of the date of installation, FieldTurf will, at FieldTurf's option, either repair or replace the affected area without charge, to the extent required to meet the warranty period[.]” Dkt. 14, ¶ 19.

         To make a somewhat long story short, between 2009 and 2011, FieldTurf learned that a synthetic fiber that it used to manufacture its fields, the “Evolution” fiber, was defective: customers complained that the fibers were prematurely splitting and shedding and that their fields were thinning and fading. FieldTurf independently determined that the Evolution fibers were indeed exhibiting premature and significant signs of physical and chemical degradation. FieldTurf eventually filed suit against the fiber manufacturer, TenCate. The parties reached a confidential settlement agreement. FieldTurf had used the Evolution fiber to manufacture the District's field, but FieldTurf did not notify the District of any problems with the Evolution fiber.

         In August 2014, the District determined that its field exhibited deterioration well beyond normal wear and tear. The District notified FieldTurf, and FieldTurf investigated the District's claims. At no point during the investigation did FieldTurf notify the District of its previous investigations, expert testing, litigation, or settlement regarding the defective Evolution fiber.

         In November 2014, FieldTurf acknowledged that the District's field was showing “early signs of fiber degradation in the high traffic areas and slightly on the colored fibers.” Id. ¶ 31. The District timely requested warranty relief, i.e., that FieldTurf repair or replace the field. As of the date of the amended complaint, FieldTurf has not honored its warranty obligations. Instead, FieldTurf has offered to sell the District a new field.

         The District brings two contract claims against FieldTurf: (1) breach of the express warranty provisions for failing to repair or replace the defective field; and (2) breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing for failing to disclose that it knew that the field's fibers were defective.

         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to dismiss

         FieldTurf contends that the District's breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing claim impermissibly duplicates its breach of contract claim. FieldTurf has a point: a party cannot bring two breach of contract claims for a single breach. But FieldTurf misunderstands the District's claims. Although this is ...


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