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Edmondson v. Pfizer, Inc.

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

February 7, 2017

DANIEL EDMONDSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
PFIZER, INC., Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to stay and motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Also before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The issues are fully briefed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this action in the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri (City of St. Louis) arising out of defendant's design, manufacture, sale, testing, marketing, advertising, and promotion or distribution of Viagra. Plaintiffs claim that use of Viagra caused serious injury, including melanoma and death. They assert claims of (1) negligence, (2) strict liability, (3) breach of express warranty, (4) breach of implied warranty, (5) fraudulent misrepresentation, (6) fraudulent concealment, (7) reckless or negligent misrepresentation and concealment, (8) gross negligence, (9) unjust enrichment, (10) wrongful death, and (11) loss of consortium.

         On December 16, 2016, defendant removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendant is a citizen of Delaware where it is incorporated and it is also a citizen of New York where its principal place of business is located. Plaintiffs are citizens of Missouri, New York, Texas, Ohio, California, Georgia, Wisconsin, Washington, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Michigan, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

         Despite the lack of complete diversity on the face of the complaint, defendant argues that the case should not be remanded. Defendant asks that the Court (1) grant its motion to stay pending transfer to a multidistrict litigation case or, in the alternative, (2) dismiss the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs for lack of personal jurisdiction before addressing subject matter jurisdiction. Even if the Court decides subject-matter jurisdiction first, defendant argues, exceptions to complete diversity apply; specifically, defendants argue that the non-diverse plaintiffs' claims are fraudulently joined and fraudulently misjoined. Id. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that remand is required because this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. Motion to Stay

         Defendant moves to stay the proceedings until the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) rules on its motion to transfer this case to the MDL proceeding In re Viagra (Sildenafil Citrate) and Cialis (Tadalafil) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2691. However, “[a] putative transferor court need not automatically postpone rulings on pending motions, or in any way generally suspend proceedings, merely on grounds that an MDL transfer motion has been filed.” Spears v. Fresenius Med. Care N. Am., Inc., No. 4:13-CV-855 (CEJ), 2013 WL 2643302, at *1 (E.D. Mo. June 12, 2013) (quoting T.F. v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 4:12-CV-1221 (CDP), 2012 WL 3000229, at *1 (E.D. Mo. July 23, 2012)); see also Robinson v. Pfizer Inc., No. 4:16-CV-439 (CEJ), 2016 WL 1721143, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 29, 2016); Clark v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-546 (HEA), 2015 WL 4648019, at *1-2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 5, 2015) (denying a stay pending a ruling on a conditional transfer); Simmons v. Skechers USA, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-340 (CEJ), 2015 WL 1604859, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 9, 2015); Matthews v. Fresenius Med. Care N. Am., Inc., No. 4:14-CV-979 (JAR), 2014 WL 3579941, at *1 (E.D. Mo. July 21, 2014). “This is especially true where, as here, [a] pending motion is one for remand and goes to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction.” Spears, 2013 WL 2643302, at *1 (internal quotation marks omitted).[1]

         Defendant argues that a stay is appropriate in this case because it would (1) promote judicial economy, (2) avoid prejudice to defendant, and (3) impose no prejudice on plaintiffs. The Court disagrees. “This Court is in the best position to determine subject matter jurisdiction, and waiting for a decision by the JPML before ruling on the motion to remand ‘would not promote the efficient administration of justice.'” Spears, 2013 WL 2643302, at *1 (quoting Stone v. Baxter Int'l, Inc., No. 4:08-CV-3207, 2009 WL 236116, at *2 (D. Neb. Jan. 30, 2009)). Accordingly, defendant's motion to stay will be denied.[2]

         III. Motion to Remand

         “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 any time, it appears that the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         “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)). Defendant argues 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.[3] [Doc. #14 at 5].

         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. ...

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