Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

McClurg v. Mallinckrodt LLC

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

October 31, 2016

SCOTT D. MCCLURG, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MALLINCKRODT, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs in these consolidated actions seek damages under the Price-Anderson Act (“PAA”) as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2014, 2210, for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of multiple decades of exposure to hazardous, toxic, and radioactive substances handled by Defendants Mallinckrodt, Inc. and Cotter Corporation at various times between 1942 and 1973, at or near Plaintiffs' residences in north St. Louis County, Missouri.

         The matter is now before the Court on Defendants' motion (Doc. No. 427) for partial reconsideration of the Court's prior denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss, on statute-of-limitations grounds, and for judgment on the pleadings with respect to those Plaintiffs who filed claims to recover for the deaths of their decedents more than three years after the deaths. Defendants seek this relief based on a new Missouri Supreme Court opinion. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In June 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaints, partly on statute-of-limitations grounds. As relevant here, Defendants argued that Plaintiffs whose PAA claims alleged death as a result of exposure to the substances at issue were governed by Missouri's three-year statute of limitation for wrongful death actions, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.100. Defendants argued that such claims accrued at the time of death and that because several Plaintiffs filed suit more than three years after the death of their decedents, those claims had to be dismissed as time-barred.

         In response to Defendants' motions to dismiss, Plaintiffs conceded that Missouri's three-year statute of limitations applied to their PAA claims alleging wrongful death. But Plaintiffs argued that federal common law governed the accrual date for those claims, and that under federal law, “[a] claim ‘accrues' when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know both the existence and cause of the injury.” See Slaaten v. United States, 990 F.2d 1038, 1041 (8th Cir. 1993) (applying federal common law to determine when a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act accrues).[1] Alternatively, Plaintiffs argued that to the extent their claims were deemed to accrue earlier under state law, such state law was preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675.

         On February 27, 2015, the Court denied Defendants' motions to dismiss on statute-of-limitations grounds. (Doc. No. 262.) The Court held that it did not need to resolve whether federal or state law governed the accrual date of Plaintiffs' claims in this case because even under Missouri law, Plaintiffs' claims did not accrue until they knew or reasonably should have known of the wrongful nature of their decedents' deaths. The Court relied on the holding of the Missouri Court of Appeals in Boland v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc., No. WD 75364, 2013 WL 6170598, at *7 (Mo.Ct.App. Nov. 26, 2013) (“Boland I”), that under Missouri law, “[a] wrongful death cause of action does not necessarily accrue at the time of death; rather, it accrues at the time that a diligent plaintiff has knowledge of facts sufficient to put him on notice of an invasion of his legal rights.”

         Several months later, on August 18, 2015, a 4-3 majority of the Missouri Supreme Court reversed Boland I and unequivocally held that, under Missouri law, “a wrongful death claim accrues at death, ” subject to only two exceptions contained in the statute of limitations itself, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.100, and not applicable here. Boland v. St. Luke's Health Sys., Inc., 471 S.W.3d 703, 710 (Mo. 2015), as modified (Oct. 27, 2015) (“Boland II”).[2] The court made clear that Missouri does not delay accrual of wrongful death claims based on a discovery rule such as the one advocated by Plaintiffs. Id. at 710.

         The state high court in Boland II also considered whether the statute of limitations could be equitably tolled, or whether the defendants could be equitably estopped from asserting a statute-of-limitations defense, due to the defendants' alleged fraudulent concealment of the tortious nature of the deaths in that case.[3] Id. at 710-11. The court held that no such equitable exception for fraudulent concealment could apply. Id. The court reasoned that, despite the “harsh result, ” it was obligated to follow the mandate of the state legislature, which had created a “special statute of limitation” for wrongful death, itself a creature of statute. Id. at 705, 712-13.

         The three dissenting judges in Boland II agreed that, under § 537.100, a wrongful death claim accrues at death and cannot be equitably tolled. However, the dissenting judges would have allowed equitable estoppel to bar the defendants from asserting the statute-of-limitations defense based on their fraudulent concealment. Id. at 714-19 (Draper, J., dissenting in part).

         On the same day that Boland II was issued, a different 4-3 majority of the Missouri Supreme Court issued a seemingly conflicting opinion in State ex rel. Beisly v. Perigo, 469 S.W.3d 434 (Mo. 2015).[4] In Beisly, the court again considered the effect, if any, on § 537.100's statute of limitations when a defendant fraudulently concealed his wrongdoing, making it impossible for the plaintiff to bring her wrongful death action within three years of the decedent's death. 469 S.W.3d at 436. As in Boland II, a majority of the court in Beisly held that § 537.100 was a special statute of limitations for wrongful death claims; that wrongful death claims accrued at death; and that the statute of limitations could not be tolled for reasons not provided in § 537.100 itself. Id. at 438-40. However, contrary to its holding in Boland II, the court in Beisly held that a defendant who fraudulently concealed his wrongdoing could be equitably estopped from asserting a statute-of-limitations defense. Id. at 444-45. In so holding, the court reasoned:

The application of equitable estoppel does nothing to engraft a tolling mechanism or otherwise extend the statute of limitations beyond what is stated expressly in the statute. The cause of action still accrues at the decedent's death, and the statute of limitations begins to run at that time. Equitable estoppel does not toll the running of the statute. Rather, it forecloses the wrongdoer, who concealed his or her actions fraudulently, from asserting the defense.

Id. at 444.

         On September 2, 2016, Defendants in the present case filed their motion to reconsider and for judgment on pleadings. Defendants argue that, in light of Boland II, the Court should reconsider its prior denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss on statute-of-limitations grounds and should grant Defendants judgment on the pleadings with respect to those Plaintiffs who filed PAA claims asserting wrongful death more than three years after their decedents' deaths. Defendants' motion originally identified 74 such Plaintiffs, see Doc. No. 427-1, but in their reply brief, Defendants acknowledge that two of these Plaintiffs timely filed their claims on the last day of the three-year period.[5]

         In response, Plaintiffs argue that, in light of the conflicting rulings of Boland II and Beisly and absent further guidance from the Missouri Supreme Court, the Court should decline to reconsider its prior holding. Plaintiffs also reassert the arguments they raised in opposition to Defendants' original motion to dismiss, that federal law governs the accrual date of Plaintiffs' claims and that, to the extent the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.