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T.R. v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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

February 7, 2017

T.R., et al., Plaintiffs,



         This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' motion to remand this action to the state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Defendants have responded in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this action in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, asserting claims arising out of defendants' design, manufacture, sale, marketing, advertising, promotion, and distribution of Risperdal (risperidone) and Invega (paliperidone). Plaintiffs allege that use of Risperdal or Invega caused rapid weight gain, hyperprolactinemia, gynecomastia, galactorrhea, and tardive dyskinesia, among other health conditions. Plaintiffs assert claims of (1) strict products liability, (2) negligence, (3) failure to warn, (4) breach of warranty of merchantability, (5) breach of express warranty, (6) breach of implied warranty, (7) fraud, and (8) negligent misrepresentation.

         On November 23, 2016, defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendant Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Defendant Janssen L.P. was a Pennsylvania organization.[1] Defendant Johnson & Johnson is a citizen of New Jersey. Defendant Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a New Jersey limited liability company, and has one member corporation - a Pennsylvania corporation with a principal place of business in Pennsylvania. In short, defendants are citizens of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs are citizens of Missouri, New Jersey, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Texas, West Virginia, Idaho, California, and Nevada.

         Despite the lack of complete diversity on the face of the complaint, defendants argue that the case should not be remanded. Defendants urge the Court to first resolve “straightforward questions of personal jurisdiction, ” which, purportedly, would eliminate the non-diverse plaintiffs' claims. [Doc. # 20 at p. 2]. In the alternative, defendants maintain that subject-matter jurisdiction exists because the non-diverse plaintiffs' claims are fraudulently joined. Plaintiffs counter that the non-diverse plaintiffs' claims are properly joined, and the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action in the absence of complete diversity of the parties.

         II. Legal Standard

         “A defendant may remove a state law claim to federal court only if the action originally could have been filed there.” In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d 613, 619 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Phipps v. FDIC, 417 F.3d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir. 2005)). Moreover, the removing defendant bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Altimore v. Mount Mercy Coll., 420 F.3d 763, 768 (8th Cir. 2005). “All doubts about federal jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court.” In re Prempro, 591 F.3d at 620 (citing Wilkinson v. Shackelford, 478 F.3d 957, 963 (8th Cir. 2007)). A case must be remanded if, at anytime, it appears that the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         III. Discussion

         “It is axiomatic that a court may not proceed at all in a case unless it has jurisdiction.” Crawford v. F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., 267 F.3d 760, 764 (8th Cir. 2001). “The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter ‘spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States, ' and is ‘inflexible and without exception.'” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (quoting Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)). Defendants argue that, in this case, the Court should dismiss the claims of the non-Missouri plaintiffs for lack of personal jurisdiction before addressing subject matter jurisdiction.[2]

         Under Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., the Court has discretion to determine whether to consider its subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction first. 526 U.S. 574, 578 (1999) (holding that “[c]ustomarily, a federal court first resolves doubts about its jurisdiction, but there are circumstances in which a district court appropriately accords priority to a personal jurisdiction inquiry, ” or otherwise stated, “there is no unyielding jurisdictional hierarchy”). “If personal jurisdiction raises ‘difficult questions of [state] law, ' and subject-matter jurisdiction is resolved ‘as eas[ily]' as personal jurisdiction, a district court will ordinarily conclude that ‘federalism concerns tip the scales in favor of initially ruling on the motion to remand.'” Id. at 586 (quoting Allen v. Ferguson, 791 F.2d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 1986)). Notably, however, “in most instances subject-matter jurisdiction will involve no arduous inquiry.” Id. at 587.

         Courts in this district addressing similar personal-jurisdiction arguments have found it appropriate to address the issue of subject matter jurisdiction first. See, e.g., Hall v. Bayer Corp., No. 4-16-CV-1523 (CEJ), 2017 WL 86011 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 10, 2017); Mcpeters v. Bayer Corp., No. 4:16-CV-1680 (SPM), 2017 WL 57250 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 5, 2017); Dotson v. Bayer Corp., 4-16-CV-1593 (PLC), 2017 WL 35706 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2017); Spann v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., No. 4:16-CV-902 (RLW), 2016 WL 7243535 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 14, 2016); Mounce v. Bayer Corp., No. 4:16-CV-1478 (RLW), 2016 WL 7235707 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 13, 2016); Dorman v. Bayer Corp., No. 4:16-CV-601 (HEA), 2016 WL 7033765 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 2, 2016); Fahnestock v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., No. 4:16-CV-1013 (CEJ), 2016 WL 4397971 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 18, 2016); Timms v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 4:16-CV-733 (JAR), 2016 WL 3667982 (E.D. Mo. July 11, 2016); Joseph v. Combe Inc., No. 4:16-CV-284 (RLW), 2016 WL 3339387 (E.D. Mo. June 13, 2016); Nickerson v. Janssen Pharm., Inc., No. 4:15-CV-1762 (RLW), 2016 WL 3030241 (E.D. Mo. May 26, 2016); Adler v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., No. 4:16-CV-155 (RWS), Memorandum and Order (E.D. Mo. Mar. 28, 2016) [Doc. #18]; Clark v. Pfizer, No. 4:15-CV-546 (HEA), 2015 WL 4648019 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 5, 2015); Parker v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-441 (CAS), 2015 WL 3971169 (E.D. Mo. June 30, 2015); Littlejohn v. Janssen Research & Dev., LLC, No. 4:15-CV-194 (CDP), 2015 WL 1647901 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 13, 2015).

         For their part, defendants cite only one case from the Eighth Circuit in which the court reached the opposite conclusion and decided personal jurisdiction first - Addelson v. Sanofi, 4:16-CV-1277 (ERW), 2016 WL 6216124 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 25, 2016). But after considering the complexity of the personal jurisdiction inquiry, and in light of the overwhelming consensus in this district, the Court respectfully disagrees with Addelson. See Spann v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., No. 4:16-CV-902 (RLW), 2016 WL 7243535, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 14 2016) (reasoning that issues of personal jurisdiction require a more fact-intensive analysis). Where, as here, the inquiry into subject matter jurisdiction is not arduous, the better course is to address that issue first. See Id. at 587-88 (“[B]oth expedition and sensitivity to state courts' coequal stature should impel the federal court to dispose of [subject matter jurisdiction] first.”) Accordingly, the Court is not persuaded by defendants' arguments, and finds that it is appropriate to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction before addressing the issue of personal jurisdiction.

         A. ...

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