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Addelson v. Sanofi S.A.

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

October 25, 2016

BARBARA ADDELSON, et al., Plaintiff(s),
v.
SANOFI S.A., et al., Defendant(s).

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi U.S. Services Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss the New Jersey Plaintiff's Claims for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue [ECF No. 7], Defendants Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi U.S. Services Inc.'s Motion to Sever [ECF No. 9], Defendants Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi U.S. Services Inc.'s Motion to Stay [ECF No. 11], and Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand [ECF No. 19].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Barbara Addelson and Dorethea Braxton (“Plaintiffs”) filed a petition in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, alleging Defendants Sanofi S.A., Aventis Pharma S.A., Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Services Inc., and Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC manufactured, marketed, and sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous pharmaceutical drug, Taxotere, causing permanent alopecia.[1] ECF No. 5. Plaintiffs assert nine counts against Defendants: (1) Strict Liability; (2) Manufacturing Defect; (3) Design Defect; (4) Failure to Warn; (5) Negligence; (6) Breach of Express Warranty; (7) Breach of Implied Warranty; (8) Negligent Misrepresentation; and (9) Fraud. ECF No. 5. On August 4, 2016, Defendants Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc. and Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC (“Defendants”) removed the matter to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Subsequent to removal, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Sever, and Motion to Stay. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand. Defendants Sanofi S.A. and Aventis Pharma S.A. have not been served.

         For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Plaintiffs' Complaint. Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 958, 988 (8th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff Barbara Addelson (“Plaintiff Addelson”) is a citizen of St. Louis County, Missouri. From November 2010, through March 2011, Plaintiff Addelson took Taxotere in the City of St. Louis, pursuant to a doctor's prescription to treat breast cancer. Plaintiff Dorethea Braxton (“Plaintiff Braxton”) is a citizen of New Jersey. From December 2008, through May 2009, Plaintiff Braxton took Taxotere, pursuant to a doctor's prescription to treat breast cancer.

         Defendant Sanofi S.A. is a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of France, with its principal place of business at 54 Rue La Boetie, 75008, Paris, France. Defendants Aventis Pharma S.A., Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Services Inc., and Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Defendant Sanofi S.A. Defendant Aventis Pharma S.A. is a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of France, with its principal place of business at 20 Avenue Raymond Aron, 92160, Antony, France. Defendant Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Services Inc. is a Delaware corporation, with its principal place of business at 55 Corporate Drive, Bridgewater, New Jersey, 08807. Defendant Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC is a Delaware limited liability company, with its principal place of business at 55 Corporate Drive, Bridgewater, New Jersey, 08807. All Defendants were engaged in the business of research, designing, testing, formulating, inspecting, labeling, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, distributing, producing, processing, promoting, and selling Taxotere in St. Louis, Missouri, and the United States. Defendants Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Services Inc. and Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, have been licensed to do business in Missouri, and maintained a registered agent in the State of Missouri, during all relevant time periods.[2]

         II. ORDER OF THE MOTIONS

         In their various motions, responses, and replies, the parties argue the merits of the issues, but also assert arguments regarding which motion should be decided first. Plaintiffs argue their Motion to Remand and a determination of subject matter jurisdiction should be addressed by the Court before Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and issues of personal jurisdiction. Defendants argue the opposite.

         “Customarily, a federal court first resolves doubts about its jurisdiction over the subject matter” of a case before addressing personal jurisdiction issues. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 578 (1999). However, there are circumstances in which a court may first address personal jurisdiction, such as when personal jurisdiction is straightforward while subject matter jurisdiction is “difficult, novel, or complex.” Id. at 588.

         In Guillette v. PD-RX Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, the Western District of Oklahoma held the question of personal jurisdiction was straightforward because it concerned issues of sufficiency of contacts and the consequences of registration to do business in a state, whereas the subject matter jurisdiction inquiry was complex because it included the doctrine of fraudulent misjoinder, which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had not adopted or rejected. No. 5:15-CV-00564-R, 2016 WL 3094073 at *2 (W.D. Ok. Jun. 1, 2016); see also In re Testosterone Replacement Therapy Prods. Liab. Coordinated Pretrial Proceedings, 164 F.Supp.3d 1040, 1045-46 (N.D. Ill. 2016).

         The same situation has occurred here. The personal jurisdiction question is straightforward, while the issue of subject matter jurisdiction is more complicated, due to the doctrine of fraudulent misjoinder. Therefore, this Court will first address the issues of personal jurisdiction before subject-matter jurisdiction.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS

         Defendants assert, in their Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff Braxton's claims must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants argue Plaintiff Braxton is from New Jersey and there are no allegations connecting her claims to Missouri. Further, Defendants contend they also have no connections to Missouri. In the alternative, Defendants contend Plaintiff Braxton's claims should be transferred, because the Eastern District of Missouri is an improper venue for litigation of her claims. Plaintiffs assert personal jurisdiction ...


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