United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
SCOTT D. MCCLURG, et al., Plaintiffs,
MALLINCKRODT, INC., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' joint motion
(ECF No. 599) to dismiss, as time-barred, the amended
complaints filed on behalf of the following three decedents
in these consolidated cases: Leon Anderson, William
Donaldson, and William McHenry. The amended complaints were
filed with leave of the Court on June 13, 2017, by the
decedents' spouses, who were substituted as party
plaintiffs on January 25, 2016. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.
their deaths, the decedents named above each filed a
“public liability action” under the
Price-Anderson Act (“PAA”) as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2014, 2210, governing legal liability related to
“nuclear incidents.” The decedents sought
compensatory and punitive damages for bodily injury allegedly
suffered as a result of exposure to radioactive substances
mishandled by Defendants. After they filed suit, each died.
filed suit on February 28, 2012, and died on April 16, 2013;
McHenry and Anderson filed suit on January 10, 2014, and died
on February 13, 2014, and March 21, 2014, respectively. On
January 5, 2016, Plaintiffs' attorneys filed
“Suggestions of Death” and moved to substitute
the spouse of each decedent under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 25. The filings did not indicate the causes of
death. Defendants did not oppose the motions for
substitution, and the motions were granted as unopposed on
January 25, 2016. ECF No. 333.
April 24, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
decedents' complaints, arguing for the first time that
the spouses of Anderson, Donaldson, and McHenry were improper
parties for substitution under Rule 25. Defendants argued
that the spouses lacked standing to prosecute the
decedents' claims because the spouses were not appointed
by the state probate court to be personal representatives of
the decedents' estates, as required by Missouri's
survival statute, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.020, and the time
to do so had passed under Missouri law.
response, Plaintiffs did not dispute that the spouses were
not appointed to be personal representatives of the
decedents' estates, but Plaintiffs argued that
Missouri's survival statute did not apply to the
spouses' claims. Plaintiffs argued that because the
decedents died as a result of the injuries alleged in their
complaints-namely, cancer attributable to Defendants'
conduct-the spouses' claims were wrongful death actions
rather than survival actions. And Plaintiffs asserted that
the substituted spouses were the proper parties to recover
for the wrongful death of the decedents under Missouri law.
reply, Defendants noted that Plaintiffs never pleaded that
the decedents died from the injuries alleged in their
complaints, and it was too late to do so because
Missouri's wrongful death statute's three-year
limitations period, which governs Plaintiffs' PAA public
liability actions alleging wrongful death (ECF No. 449),
Court agreed with Plaintiffs that, to the extent Anderson,
Donaldson, and McHenry died from the injuries alleged in
their complaints, their spouses were proper parties and did
not need to be appointed as personal representatives of the
decedents' estates in order to seek wrongful death
damages. But because Plaintiffs had not pleaded
that the decedents died as a result of the injuries alleged
in their complaints, the Court allowed Plaintiffs to file
amended complaints on behalf of the decedents, to
sufficiently plead causes of action under the PAA for
injuries resulting in death, if appropriate. The Court
declined to address Defendants' argument, raised in their
reply brief, as to the timeliness of such claims. Instead,
the Court denied Defendants' motions to dismiss without
prejudice to filing new motions to dismiss directed to any
amended complaints filed by Plaintiffs.
spouses of Anderson, Donaldson, and McHenry filed amended
complaints on June 13, 2017. The amended complaints, like the
original complaints, assert causes of action under the PAA
and seek compensatory and punitive damages. However, the
amended complaints add an allegation that each decedent's
injuries, caused by exposure to radioactive substances
mishandled by Defendants, resulted in death.
filed this motion to dismiss the amended complaints on June
27, 2017. Defendants argue that the amended complaints are
untimely and must be dismissed as a matter of law because
they were filed more than three years after the death of each
decedent. According to Defendants, wrongful death is a
distinct cause of action under Missouri law, created purely
by statute, and a personal injury claim does not
automatically convert to a wrongful death claim upon the
death of the decedent.
response, Plaintiffs argue that the amended complaints are
timely because they relate back to the decedents'
timely-filed original complaints. Plaintiffs argue that the
claims in the amended complaints arose out of the same
conduct, transactions, or occurrences set forth in the
original complaints. Plaintiffs further argue that Defendants
were aware, before the three-year statute of limitations
expired, that the decedents died as a result of the injuries
alleged in their complaints and that the decedents'
spouses intended to prosecute claims to seek damages for
wrongful death. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that, in
January 2015, they produced to Defendants each decedent's
death certificate, which listed as the cause of death the
type of cancer alleged in the decedent's complaint, and
revised questionnaires completed by the spouse of each decedent
that provided information about each spouse's wrongful
death claim. Further, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants will
not have to engage in any new or different discovery as a
result of the amendment. Therefore, Plaintiffs argue that
Defendants cannot show unfair prejudice.
reply, Defendants argue that the amended complaints do not
relate back to the decedents' original complaints because
the spouses of the decedents are new parties asserting new
causes of action, and they have not shown any justification
for the delay in adding the allegations that the decedents
died as a result of their injuries. Defendants further argue
that the death certificates and questionnaires produced in
discovery were not sufficient to provide Defendants with
notice that the decedents' spouses intended to pursue
claims seeking damages for the decedents' wrongful
deaths. Finally, Defendants contend that allowing the
untimely amendment to go forward here would ...