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Lahaye v. Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals Lp

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 28, 2015



BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 24), filed by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP ("AstraZeneca"), seeking an order from this Court dismissing Sharon Sue LaHaye[1] and Robert Claude Lafayette's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") claims against it, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Doc. 25). AstraZeneca filed a reply memorandum in opposition. (Doc. 28). Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

I. Background

Sharon Sue LaHaye ("LaHaye") and Robert Claude Lafayette ("Lafayette") commenced the instant action in the Nineteenth Judicial District for the Parish of East Baton Rouge on January 8, 2014, against AstraZeneca, seeking damages for injuries incurred as a result of ingesting the prescription drug Nexium. (Doc. 1-2). On February 19, 2014, following service of the Petition, AstraZeneca timely removed the action to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1). On March 12, 2014, AstraZeneca filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, which Plaintiffs opposed. (Docs. 6, 9). On November 14, 2014, Plaintiffs sought leave to file an amended complaint, which the Magistrate Judge granted in spite of AstraZeneca's opposition. (Docs. 20, 21, 22). The Amended Complaint, styled "Amending Complaint, " restated the original Petition in its entirety. (Doc. 23). AstraZeneca then filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on January 13, 2015. (Doc. 24). LaHaye's claims include liability for a defective product. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 21). Lafayette's claims include loss of consortium. (Id. at ¶ 21).

II. Standard of Review

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

"Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. "[F]acial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Hence, the complaint need not set out "detailed factual allegations, " but something "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In short, the standard requires the plaintiff to provide "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary claims or elements." In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).

Notably, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that a motion to dismiss "is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted." Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982). Therefore, a court should grant a motion to dismiss only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitled him to relief. Benton v. United States, 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir. 1992).

III. Analysis

A. Louisiana Products Liability Act

The Louisiana Products Liability Act ("LPLA") establishes "the exclusive theories of liability for manufacturers for damage caused by their products." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.52. Thus, a claimant may not recover on the basis of any theory not set forth in the LPLA.[2] Stahl v. Novartis Pharm., 283 F.3d 254, 260 (5th Cir. 2002); Jefferson v. Lead Indus. Assoc., Inc. 106 F.3d 1245, 1250-51 (5th Cir. 1997).

To properly state a claim under the LPLA, a plaintiff has the burden of proving that (1) the defendant is a manufacturer; (2) the damage sustained was proximately caused by a characteristic of a product that made it "unreasonably dangerous" in one of four ways; and (3) that injury resulted from a reasonably anticipated use. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.54; Stahl, 282 F.3d at 261. A product may be held to be unreasonably dangerous because of: (1) defective design; (2) defective composition or construction; (3) inadequate warning; or (4) breach of an express warranty. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.54(B); Stahl, 282 F.3d at 261. Lastly, a plaintiff must prove that the "unreasonably dangerous" characteristic existed at the time the product left the manufacturer's control, or resulted from a reasonably anticipated alteration to the product. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.54(C).

Here, Plaintiffs specifically allege, and indeed, AstraZeneca does not dispute that AstraZeneca manufactured Nexium, the product at issue. Plaintiffs also expressly allege that LaHaye was injured as a result of her use of Nexium. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 4). Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that LaHaye began taking Nexium in 2004, but ceased ingestion in January 2013, when she was diagnosed with clostridium difficile ("C. diff."), septic shock and toxic megacolon, which necessitated a colectomy. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 11-12). LaHaye's treating surgeon, Dr. James W. Wade ("Dr. Wade"), later presented LaHaye's case at a conference of surgeons in which he suggested that the etiology of LaHaye's injuries was her taking the prescription Nexium for nine years. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13). Accepting these factual allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have pled sufficient facts to establish that LaHaye's use of the drug was reasonably anticipated, and that any damage she sustained was proximately caused by the ingestion of Nexium. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.53(7) (A "reasonably anticipated use" of the product is defined as "a use or handling of a product that the product's manufacturer should reasonably expect of an ordinary person in the same or similar circumstances."); see also Cooper v. Wyeth, Inc., No. 09-929, 2010 WL 2653321 (June 25, 2010).

Plaintiffs also allege that AstraZeneca inserted "into the stream of commerce a product which was defective, unsafe and in an inherently dangerous condition; where it was expected to and in fact did reach... LaHaye, without substantial change in the condition in which it was manufactured...." (Doc. 23 at ¶ 7). There being no direct opposition by AstraZeneca, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs, the Court finds that this is sufficient to establish that the allegedly dangerous characteristic existed at the time Nexium left the manufacturer. Accordingly, to ...

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