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Simon v. Select Comfort Retail Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 12, 2014

RALPH SIMON, Plaintiff,
v.
SELECT COMFORT RETAIL CORP., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Select Comfort Retail Corporation's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 6) The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

Background

This case concerns personal injuries that Plaintiff Ralph Simon ("Simon") allegedly sustained from exposure to mold in his Sleep Number® mattress, designed and manufactured by Defendant Select Comfort Retail Corporation ("Select Comfort"). Plaintiff asserts four causes of action: strict liability defective design (Count 1); strict liability failure to warn (Count 2); negligence (Count 3); and negligent failure to recall (Count 5).

Simon alleges that in "early 2009, " he began experiencing a wide range of physical ailments, including severe skin irritations, hearing loss, eye infections and vision problems, sleep apnea and severe throat irritation. (Complaint ("Compl."), Doc. No. 4, at ¶¶ 2, 10-14) He sought treatment from numerous healthcare providers, but his health continued to deteriorate. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-4) Then, "[o]n or about March 1, 2013, [Simon] lifted up the foam pad of his bed and discovered... mold." (Id. at ¶ 5) He immediately contacted Select Comfort's warranty department to report his discovery. (Id. at ¶ 6)

Simon further alleges that the Sleep Number® mattress was manufactured with a design defect that trapped heat and moisture, thereby creating "a perfect environment for mold and bacteria growth." (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 21) "The design, combined with consumers' foreseeable pattern of use... creates an ideal mechanism for drying, launching and distributing mold spores in the surrounding bedding and air." (Id. at ¶ 8) The mold that formed as a result of the mattress's defective design "directly and proximately caused [Simon's]... physical ailments. (Id. at ¶¶ 24, 31) Simon alleges Select Comfort was aware of the defective design of the bed in that "consumers, reporters, and investigators have litigated, described, blogged and debated the design defects and potential for mold growth in the Sleep Number® bed." (Id. at ¶ 43) Nevertheless, Select Comfort failed to provide warnings of the possibility of mold growth or instructions notifying users to inspect the mattress regularly (id. at ¶ 23) and failed to recall the Sleep Number® beds. (Id. at ¶¶ 44-45)

Select Comfort moves to dismiss Simon's complaint on three grounds: (1) he has not adequately pled causation; (2) his claims are time-barred; and (3) Select Comfort has no duty to recall.

Legal standard

In ruling on a motion dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Foster v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co., 2012 WL 5285887, 2 (E.D.Mo. Oct. 25, 2012) (citing Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir.2008)). The Court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Id . (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir.2005)). The complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " however, and the motion to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Thus, a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted "only in the unusual case in which a plaintiff includes allegations that show, on the face of the complaint, that there is some insuperable bar to relief." Strand v. Diversified Collection Serv., Inc., 380 F.3d 316, 317 (8th Cir.2004). The issue on a motion to dismiss is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of his or her claim. Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir.1995).

Discussion

Causation

Select Comfort first argues that Simon has not adequately pled a causal connection between his health problems and a specific defect in his Sleep Number® bed. Specifically, Select Comfort argues that Simon's allegation that he "did not experience any of the symptoms described... until his initial and continuing exposure to the mold, including through direct contact with the bed and by breathing mold spores" lacks the requisite factual support to survive a motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 7 at 8; Compl., at ¶ 16) Select Comfort further argues that Simon's failure to plead a diagnosis linking his symptoms to chronic exposure to mold indicates that the only causal connection is based on his own speculation. (Doc. No. 14 at 4) In addition, the lengthy time lapse between Simon's purchase of his Sleep Number® bed in 1999 and the onset of his symptoms in 2009, even before the discovery of mold in 2013, further weakens his theory of causation. (Doc. No. 7 at 8-9)

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court looks to whether the plaintiffs' allegations suffice to show the required causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the plaintiff's loss. See Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 935 (8th Cir. 2012). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to present evidence in support of his claim. Rosenberg, 56 F.3d at 37.

Here, Simon alleges that he discovered mold inside his bed in March 2013, that he suffered severe physical ailments, and that he "did not experience any of the symptoms described... until his initial and continuing exposure to the mold, including through direct contact with the bed and by breathing mold spores." He further alleges that the "mold that formed as a result of the defective design directly and proximately caused [his] extensive and severe physical ailments." (Compl. at ¶¶ 16, 24) Accepting these allegations as true, at this stage of the litigation, a reasonable inference can be drawn that Simon's exposure to mold in his Sleep Number® bed caused his alleged injuries. See, Graveline v. Select Comfort Retail Corp., 871 F.Supp.2d 1033, 1037 (E.D. Cal. 2012) (consumer's allegations that mold was discovered in her mattress, that the house did not have mold problems other than in mattress, that consumer and husband also had rashes and skin disorders, that exposure to mold can cause skin disorders, and that consumer's health improved upon removal of the mattress were sufficient to plead causation, as required for her negligence and strict products liability claims against manufacturer of mattress); ...


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