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Jinright v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc.

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

August 30, 2017

REBECCA JINRIGHT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Incorporated's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Claims for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue [ECF No. 4], Defendants Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Incorporated's Motion to Stay [ECF No. 7], Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion to Remand [ECF No. 14], and Defendant Imerys Talk America, Incorporated's Motion and Suggestions in Support to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Petition for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction [ECF No. 25].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 1, 2017, Plaintiffs[1] initiated this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City. Plaintiffs filed an amended petition on June 19, 2017, alleging Defendants Johnson & Johnson, Incorporated, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Incorporated, and Imerys Talc America, Incorporated's[2] negligent, willful and wrongful conduct in connection with the design, development, manufacture, testing, packaging, promoting, marketing, distribution, labeling, and sale of products known as Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower caused Plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer. Plaintiffs assert 16 counts against Defendants: (1) Violation of Missouri Merchandizing Practices Act against Johnson & Johnson; (2) Strict Liability for Failure to Warn against Imerys; (3) Strict Liability for Failure to Warn against Johnson & Johnson; (4) Strict Liability for Defective Manufacture and Design against Imerys; (5) Strict Liability for Defective Manufacture and Design against Johnson & Johnson; (6) Negligence against Imerys; (7) Negligence against Johnson & Johnson; (8) Breach of Express Warranty against Johnson & Johnson; (9) Breach of Implied Warranties against Johnson & Johnson; (10) Civil Conspiracy against Defendants; (11) Concert of Action against Defendants; (12) Fraud against Johnson & Johnson; (13) Negligent Representation against Defendants; (14) Wrongful Death against Defendants; (15) Punitive Damages against Defendants; and (16) Damages against Defendants.

         On June 29, 2017, Defendants removed the matter to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Subsequent to removal, Defendants filed two Motions to Dismiss and a Motion to Stay. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand.

         For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Plaintiffs' Amended Petition. Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 958, 988 (8th Cir. 2010). Two of the 83 plaintiffs in this case, Tina Gill and Peggy Waddle, citizens of Missouri, applied talcum powder in Missouri, and developed ovarian cancer in Missouri. Plaintiff Gretchen Zurligen, [3] a citizen of Oregon, applied talcum powder in Missouri and developed ovarian cancer in Missouri. Plaintiff Rebecca Jinright, a citizen of Texas, applied talcum powder in Missouri. The remaining 79 plaintiffs have no connection to the state of Missouri. Plaintiff Cathleen Acker, among others, is a citizen of California. Plaintiff Constance Aparicio, among others, is a citizen of New Jersey. Johnson & Johnson is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Imerys is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California.[4]

         II.ORDER OF THE MOTIONS

         In their various motions, responses, and replies, the parties argue the merits of the issues, but also assert arguments regarding which motion should be decided first. Plaintiffs argue their Motion to Remand and a determination of subject matter jurisdiction should be addressed by the Court before Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and issues of personal jurisdiction. Defendants argue the opposite.

         “Customarily, a federal court first resolves doubts about its jurisdiction over the subject matter” of a case before addressing personal jurisdiction issues. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 578 (1999). However, there are circumstances in which a court may first address personal jurisdiction, such as when personal jurisdiction is straightforward while subject matter jurisdiction is “difficult, novel, or complex.” Id. at 588. 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. Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017); State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W.3d 41 (Mo. 2017); Siegfried v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., No. 4:16CV1942 CDP, 2017 WL 2778107 at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jun. 27, 2017).

         The personal jurisdiction question is straightforward. 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. Ruling personal jurisdiction first is in the interests of judicial economy and expeditiousness. Therefore, this Court will first address the motions to dismiss before the motion to remand.

         III.MOTIONS TO DISMISS

         Defendants assert, in their Motions to Dismiss, all of the claims for Plaintiffs not from Missouri, the non-resident Plaintiffs, must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants argue there are no allegations connecting the remaining Plaintiffs' claims to Missouri. Further, Defendants contend they also have no connections to Missouri. Plaintiffs assert the matter should be remanded to state court for additional discovery on the issue of specific personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs contend evidence exists manufacturing, packaging, and mislabeling of Johnson & Johnson talc products used by Plaintiffs took place in Missouri.

         A. Standard

         “A federal court may exercise jurisdiction over a foreign defendant only to the extent permitted by the forum state's long-arm statute and by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.” Miller v. Nippon Carbon Co., 528 F.3d 1087, 1090 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Because the Missouri long-arm statute is construed as extending personal jurisdiction to the fullest extent permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, see J.C.W. ex rel. Webb v. Wyciskalla, 275 S.W.3d 249, 253 (Mo. 2009) (en banc), the Court's ...


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