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Ridings v. Maurice

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

March 31, 2015

Max Ridings and Sue Ridings, Plaintiffs,
Scott Maurice, et al., Defendants.


JOHN T. MAUGHMER, Magistrate Judge.

On December 11, 2014, plaintiffs Max Ridings and Sue Ridings, husband and wife ("the Ridings"), filed this action in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, alleging injuries arising from Max Ridings' use of the prescription drug Pradaxa as prescribed to him by his physician, Dr. Sanjaya Gupta. The Ridings assert various theories of liability including strict liability, negligence, breach of implied and express warranty, violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. In their lawsuit, the Ridings named as defendants the corporate entities that allegedly manufacture and distribute Pradaxa - Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim Corp., Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp., Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GMBH & Co. KG, and Boehringer Ingelheim International GMBH (collectively referenced as "Boehringer"). In addition, the Ridings also named as defendants in their lawsuit five individual sales representatives of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - Scott Maurice, Matthew Hoesch, Maurice Jackson, John Mimnaugh, and Jennifer Caskey. Finally, the Ridings asserted claims against John Does 1-20 described as unknown "individuals, partnerships, or corporations who are or were engaged in the business of marketing, selling, distributing, and promoting Pradaxa."

On January 9, 2015, Boehringer removed the case to this Court based on diversity of citizenship. To that end, the Ridings are citizens and residents of the State of Missouri and the Boehringer entities are citizens of various jurisdictions, but are not citizens of Missouri. However, the four of the five individual sales representatives are citizens of Missouri.[1] With respect to the Missouri sales representatives, Boehringer's removal papers included declarations from the individuals that detailed that they each:

(a) played no role in the design, testing or manufacture of Pradaxa;
(b) played no role in the development or publishing of Pradaxa package inserts or marketing materials accompanying the drug or otherwise disseminated to health care providers.
(c) did not create, alter, revise or have any involvement in obtaining any approval for any warnings or instructions relating to Pradaxa
(d) did not personally know and have not had any direct dealings or communications with the Ridings
(e) did not personally know or ever have any Pradaxa-related contact with Dr. Sanjaya Gupta; and
(f) did not sell Pradaxa or make any warranties or representations regarding Pradaxa to the Ridings or Dr. Sanjaya Gupta.

Arguing that the individual sales representatives were fraudulently joined, Boehringer asserted that there was complete diversity between the plaintiffs and properly named defendants and, in light of the fact that the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000, jurisdiction was proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. On January 26, 2015, the Ridings timely filed their PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND [Doc. 13]. For the reasons set out herein, the motion is denied.

It is axiomatic that federal courts are court of limited jurisdiction. Godfrey v. Pulitzer Publishing Co., 161 F.3d 1137, 1141 (8th Cir. 1998). As such, federal courts "possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). Where so authorized, federal courts have a "virtually unflagging obligation... to exercise the jurisdiction given them." Barzilay v. Barzilay, 536 F.3d 844, 849 (8th Cir. 2008). However, if a federal court takes action in a dispute over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that action is a nullity. Compare Hart v. Terminex Int'l, 336 F.3d 541, 541-42 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting that it was "regrettable" that the case had to be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "rendering everything that has occurred in [the] eight years [of litigation] a nullity").

Congress has determined that federal district courts should have original jurisdiction "of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, ... and is between citizens of different States...." 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Inasmuch as a claim may be removed to federal court only if it could have been brought in federal court originally; the diversity and "amount in controversy" requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 must be met in a removed case or a claim is subject to remand to state court. Peters v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 80 F.3d 257, 260 (8th Cir. 1996). To that end:

Removal statutes are strictly construed, and any doubts about the propriety of removal are resolved in favor of state court jurisdiction and remand.

Manning v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., 304 F.Supp.2d 1146, 1148 (E.D.Mo.2004) ( citing Transit Cas. Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of ...

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