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Keeley v. Pfizer Inc.

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

July 1, 2015

JENNIFER KEELEY and JESS KEELEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
PFIZER INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Pfizer Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 5].

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Jennifer Keeley ("Plaintiff Jennifer") and Jess Keeley ("Plaintiff Jess") initiated this lawsuit by filing a Petition in in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City on March 23, 2015. On April 6, 2015, Defendant Pfizer Inc. ("Defendant") removed the Petition to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. On May 6, 2015, Defendant filed its pending Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 5], for lack of personal jurisdiction. For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Plaintiff's Petition. Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 958, 988 (8th Cir. 2010).

Plaintiff Jennifer is Plaintiff Jess's natural mother [ECF No. 8]. Plaintiff Jess was born on March 23, 1995, in Columbus, Georgia. While Plaintiff Jennifer was pregnant with Plaintiff Jess, she took the prescription drug Zoloft®. Defendant is incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New York. During the relevant time period, Defendant advertised, analyzed, assembled, compounded, designed, developed, distributed, formulated, inspected, labeled, manufactured, marketed, packaged, produced, promoted, processed, researched, tested, and sold Zoloft® in Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States. Defendant marketed, promoted, and sold Zoloft® throughout the United States, including St. Louis, Missouri.

Plaintiffs allege Plaintiff Jess was born with birth defects caused by Plaintiff Jennifer's ingestion of Zoloft® during pregnancy. Plaintiffs assert four counts against Defendant: Strict Products Liability, Defective Design (Count I), Strict Products Liability, Failure to Warn (Count II), Negligence (Count III), and Fraudulent Misrepresentation and Concealment (Count IV). Defendant now seeks to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for lack of personal jurisdiction.

II. STANDARD

"A federal court may exercise jurisdiction over a foreign defendant only to the extent permitted by the forum state's long-arm statute and by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution." Miller v. Nippon Carbon Co., 528 F.3d 1087, 1090 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Because the Missouri long-arm statute is construed as extending personal jurisdiction to the fullest extent permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, see J.C.W. ex rel. Webb v. Wyciskalla, 275 S.W.3d 249, 253 (Mo. 2009), the Court's jurisdictional inquiry is limited to determining whether asserting personal jurisdiction over the defendant comports with due process.

Where personal jurisdiction is controverted, the party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case that jurisdiction exists. Johnson v. Woodcock, 444 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir. 2006). Thus, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must state sufficient facts in the complaint to support a reasonable inference that [the defendant] may be subjected to jurisdiction in the forum state." Steinbuch v. Cutler, 518 F.3d 580, 585 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). "The plaintiff's prima facie showing' must be tested, not by the pleadings alone, but by the affidavits and exhibits presented with the motions and opposition thereto." Dever v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc., 380 F.3d 1070, 1072-73 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Personal jurisdiction can be general or specific. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014). Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction which "arises out of or relates to the defendant's contacts with the forum." Id. (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, n.8 (1984) (internal quotations omitted). A court may assert general jurisdiction to hear "any and all claims against [a defendant] when their affiliations with the state are so continuous and systematic as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." Id. (citing Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011) (internal quotations omitted). Defendant asserts the Court lacks both general and specific jurisdiction.

A. General Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court has limited general jurisdiction for a corporation to its place of incorporation or principal place of business except in an "exceptional case." Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 761, n. 19. In Daimler, Plaintiffs were Argentinian residents who brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against a German corporation regarding actions of its Argentinian subsidiary in Argentina. Id. at 750-751. Plaintiffs claimed the District Court had jurisdiction over the lawsuit because of the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, a subsidiary of the Defendant incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Id. This subsidiary distributed vehicles to dealerships throughout the United States, including California. Id. The Court held Daimler is not "at home" in California and cannot be sued there for injuries attributable to conduct in Argentina. Id. Applying this holding, Plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to establish general jurisdiction over Defendant.

Defendant is incorporated in Delaware and has a principal place of business in New York. Defendant is not incorporated in Missouri nor is its principal place of business here; thus, Plaintiff's only other option is to establish this is an exceptional case and they have not done so. The extent of Plaintiffs' allegations is Defendant marketed and sold Zoloft® in Missouri. These facts are much less than those alleged in Daimler and as the Supreme Court did not find personal jurisdiction in Daimler, it cannot be found here. Simply marketing and selling a product in a state does not make a defendant's affiliations with the state so ...


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