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In re Xarelto (Rivaroxaban) Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 24, 2017

Janssen, et ah (Rec. Docs. 6739 & 6758)

         SECTION L

          NORTH MAG. JUDGE


          ELDON E. FALLON United States District Judge

         Before the Court are Defendants' motions for partial summary judgment dismissing claims for punitive damages in the third (Mingo)[1]and fourth (Henry) Xarelto multidistrict litigation bellwether series.[2] This Order and Reasons will only address the Mingo case.[3] Under choice of law rules, Defendants ask this Court to apply the laws of New Jersey or Germany to the punitive damage claims in the upcoming trials. Plaintiff opposes the motions, instead suggesting the application of Mississippi law-the state where Mingo lives and was injured. The Court held a hearing on this matter on July 21, 2017. Having considered the parties' arguments, submissions. and the applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Xarelto MDL

         This matter arises from damages Plaintiffs claim to have suffered from the manufacture, sale, distribution, and/or use of the medication known as Xarelto, an anti-coagulant used for a variety of blood-thinning medical purposes. Plaintiffs have filed suits against Defendants throughout the nation. Plaintiffs allege that they or their family members suffered severe bleeding and other injuries due to Xarelto's allegedly defective design and inadequate warning label, among other issues.

         The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation determined that the Plaintiffs' claims involved common questions of fact, and that centralization under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation. Therefore, on December 12, 2014, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the Plaintiffs' Xarelto claims into a single multidistrict proceeding ("MDL 2592"). MDL 2592 was assigned to this Court to coordinate discovery and other pretrial matters in the pending cases. Subsequent Xarelto cases filed in federal court have been transferred to this district court to become part of MDL 2592 as "tag along" cases. The Court has appointed committees to represent the parties, and discovery has commenced. The Court, with assistance of counsel, identified a discovery pool of representative cases and selected four bellwether trials.

         The instant case is the third bellwether trial involving Plaintiff Dora Mingo. Ms. Mingo, a resident of Mississippi (see Mingo Comp. ¶ 10), filed her Complaint directly in the Eastern District of Louisiana pursuant to PTO 9, which provides that direct-filing of a complaint in MDL No. 2952 "will have no impact on choice of law that otherwise would apply to an individual case had it been originally filed in another district and transferred to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407." PTO 9, ¶ G. Because Ms. Mingo is a resident of Mississippi, PTO 9 dictates that Mississippi choice of law rules apply to determine the substantive state law governing her claim for punitive damages.

         B. Ms. Mingo's Incident[4]

         Plaintiff underwent a right total hip replacement surgery on January 6, 2015. On January 22, 2015, she was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis ("DVT") in her right lower leg at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center. She was admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Renie Jordon, who first evaluated Ms. Mingo on the morning of January 23, 2015, and prescribed Xarelto for her DVT, which developed while she was on Lovenox and then aspirin for anticoagulation after she underwent hip replacement surgery. See Def.'s Mot. (Rec. Doc. 6753) at 2. Dr. Jordon prescribed Xarelto 15 mg twice-daily for 21 days, then 20 mg once-daily thereafter. Prior to receiving her first dose of Xarelto on January 23, 2015, Ms. Mingo's PT was normal at 12.5 (reference range 12.1-15.2). After receiving her first and second dose of Xarelto, a PT test performed on January 24, 2015 revealed Ms. Mingo's PT was high at 23.6 (reference range 12.1-15.2).

         When Ms. Mingo was discharged from the hospital on January 24, 2015, she was instructed to continue taking Xarelto. On February 12, 2015, bloodwork performed by Ms. Mingo's primary care physician, Dr. Jennifer Gholson, showed her hemoglobin was 5.8 (reference range: 12.0-16.0) and her hematocrit was 19.8 (reference range: 36-48). On the morning of February 13, 2015, Ms. Mingo had already taken her last scheduled dose of Xarelto 15 mg, when she received a call from Dr. Gholson's office, instructing her to go to the emergency room immediately.

         Ms. Mingo went to the emergency room at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center. Additional tests confirmed severe anemia and an acute upper GI bleed, with a PT measurement of 26.2. Ms. Mingo was admitted to the ICU for further treatment, and her Xarelto use was discontinued upon admission.

         That same day, Ms. Mingo was transfused with four units of packed red blood cells and two units of fresh frozen plasma. Dr. Stephen Keith, a gastroenterologist, also performed an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), which revealed a 6mm oozing ulcer of the fundus. Dr. Keith ablated the bleeding ulcer with Argon Plasma Coagulation and placed a hemoclip for hemostasis. Ms. Mingo remained in the ICU for two more days, until February 15, 2015.


         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Cairett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.*' Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Lns. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, "[t]he non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment ... by merely making 'conclusory allegations' or 'unsubstantiated assertions.'" Calbillo v. Cavender Oldsmobile, Inc.,288 F.3d 721, 725 (5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiffs position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477U.S. 242, 253 (1986). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with ...

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