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Siegfried v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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

June 27, 2017

IDA SIEGFRIED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM PHARMACEUTICALS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Eight Missouri plaintiffs joined eighty-six non-Missouri plaintiffs to sue Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“BIPI”) and its corporate parent company, Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH (“BII”), in Missouri state court. All plaintiffs contend that they were injured by taking defendants' anti-clotting drug Pradaxa, and all their claims are brought under Missouri tort law. Defendants removed the case to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction even though three of the plaintiffs shared Connecticut citizenship with one of the defendants. Defendants seek dismissal of the claims of all non-Missouri plaintiffs for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs seek remand of the case to state court.

         The court will exercise its discretion to examine personal jurisdiction before subject matter jurisdiction in this case. Based on recent rulings from both the United States and Missouri Supreme Courts, I conclude that Missouri lacks personal jurisdiction over these corporate defendants for claims brought by the non-Missouri plaintiffs. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct. of Cal., S. F. Cnty., No. 16-466, 2017 WL 2621322 (U.S. June 19, 2017); State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W.3d 41(Mo. 2017) (en banc). The claims of the eighty-six non-Missouri plaintiffs will be dismissed. Complete diversity exists between the remaining parties, so the motion to remand will be denied.

         Background

         On October 10, 2016, ninety-four[1] plaintiffs filed their first amended petition in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court, seeking personal injury damages for bleeding events that were allegedly caused by their use of Pradaxa. Plaintiffs state that “their claims arise out of the same series of transactions and occurrences, and their claims involve common questions of law and fact” relating to defendants' “research, designing, testing, formulating, inspecting, labeling, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, distributing, producing, processing, promoting, and selling of the pharmaceutical drug known as Pradaxa.” ECF No. 14 at ¶ 1.

         Eight of the ninety-four plaintiffs are citizens of the state of Missouri. Only these eight Missouri plaintiffs allege that they were prescribed and took the drug Pradaxa in Missouri and subsequently suffered a bleeding event in Missouri. None of the other eighty-six plaintiffs allege that they were prescribed Pradaxa in Missouri, that they suffered any resulting injuries in Missouri, or that they received treatment for any injuries in Missouri.

         Three of the ninety-four plaintiffs are citizens of the state of Connecticut. Defendant BIPI is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut. BIPI has a registered agent and is licensed to do business in the state of Missouri. BII is a German corporation with its headquarters in Germany. Plaintiffs allege that defendants have “conducted and continue to conduct continuous and systematic business in the State of Missouri, have purposefully injected their products, including Pradaxa, into the stream of commerce to be sold in Missouri, and have taken actions such that they should anticipate being sued in the State of Missouri.” ECF No. 14 at ¶ 101. According to plaintiffs, the defendants transacted business and committed torts in whole or in part in Missouri - including the marketing and selling of Pradaxa - that gave rise to this cause of action as a whole. Id.

         Discussion

         A. Removal and Diversity Jurisdiction

         Removal in this case was premised on diversity jurisdiction, which requires an amount in controversy greater than $75, 000 and complete diversity of citizenship among the litigants. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). It is undisputed that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         Because three plaintiffs are citizens of the state of Connecticut, as is defendant BIPI, complete diversity is lacking. BIPI argues, however, that all of the non-Missouri plaintiffs' claims were fraudulently joined and therefore should be ignored for purposes of determining diversity jurisdiction. According to BIPI, this court will have federal jurisdiction over the claims of the Missouri citizen plaintiffs once the eighty-six non-Missouri plaintiffs (including the three diversity-destroying Connecticut plaintiffs) are dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs respond that the court should examine subject-matter jurisdiction before personal jurisdiction, and should remand this action to state court.

         B. Discretion on Order of Jurisdictional Issues

         There is no “unyielding jurisdictional hierarchy” concerning the order in which a federal court must consider challenges to personal jurisdiction and subject-matter jurisdiction. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 578 (1999). In exercising discretion to determine which issue to consider first, courts should consider the interests of judicial economy, weigh the preclusionary effect of ruling on an issue that could travel back and bind the state court, and decide the more straightforward issue first. Id. at 585-86. The Supreme Court in Ruhrgas acknowledged that “in most instances subject-matter jurisdiction will involve no arduous inquiry” and “[i]n such cases, both expedition and sensitivity to state courts' coequal stature should impel the federal court to dispose of that issue first.” Id. at 587-88.

         Plaintiffs argue that the more straightforward issue here is subject-matter jurisdiction. This is consistent with the holdings of many cases from this district over the past few years.[2] But recent decisions by the United States and Missouri Supreme Courts make the personal jurisdiction issue in this case much easier to decide. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct. of Cal., S. F. Cnty., No. 16-466, 2017 WL 2621322 (U.S. June 19, 2017); State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W.3d 41(Mo. 2017) (en banc). Remanding this case for lack of complete diversity, only to have the case removed again later once the non-Missouri plaintiffs are dismissed, would be a waste of judicial resources. In addition, inquiring into ...


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