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Chiasson v. B. Braun Medical Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

June 14, 2018




         Currently pending is the motion for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. 17), which was filed on behalf of the defendant, B. Braun Medical, Inc. The motion is opposed. (Rec. Doc. 21). The motion was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the court. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, it is recommended that the motion be denied as premature.


         In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that, on August 22, 2015, she was a patient at Lafayette General Medical Center and underwent an epidural anesthesia procedure in preparation for the birth of a child. She alleged that Dr. Michel E. Heard, Jr. was the anesthesiologist who performed the procedure and that Dr. Heard administered anesthetic medication through a Perifix FX Springwound Epidural Catheter, which was allegedly manufactured, marketed, and distributed by the defendant, B. Braun Medical Inc. The plaintiff further alleged that, during the epidural procedure, Dr. Heard attempted to withdraw the epidural catheter from 5 cm to 4 cm through the Touhy needle, at which time the tip of the catheter sheered, leaving a fragment of the catheter within the epidural space at the L4-5 level of the plaintiff's spine. The plaintiff will allegedly require surgery to remove the catheter fragment from her spine.

         The plaintiff filed suit against Braun in state court, and the action was removed to this forum on the basis that the parties are diverse in citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory threshold. The plaintiff's claim against Braun is based on her contention that the catheter was unreasonably dangerous under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“the LPLA”), La. R.S. 9:2800.51, et seq.

         The Contentions of the Parties

         In support of its motion, Braun contended that the way Dr. Heard used the catheter - by attempting to withdraw it through the needle - was a misuse of the product, which directly contradicted the unambiguous warning that accompanied the catheter when it was sold to the hospital. Braun contended that Dr. Heard's use of the catheter consequently was not a reasonably anticipated use of the product and precluded the plaintiff's recovery under the LPLA, since recovery is permissible only when damages arise from a reasonably anticipated use of the product. Braun also contended that it had no duty to directly warn the plaintiff of the way the catheter was to be used or to instruct the plaintiff's physician regarding the proper use of the catheter, since Dr. Heard was a learned intermediary and a sophisticated user of the product. Braun further contended that, since Lafayette General also was a sophisticated user of the product, the hospital rather than Braun had a duty to instruct or warn Dr. Heard with regard to the proper use of the product.

         In response to Braun's motion, the plaintiff contended that summary judgment should not be entered in favor of Braun because Dr. Heard is not a party to the litigation; consequently, he cannot respond to the motion for summary judgment or explain the actual procedure used during the plaintiff's labor. At the time the plaintiff's opposition brief was filed, a medical review panel proceeding regarding Dr. Heard's role in causing the plaintiff's claimed injuries had not yet been completed;[1] therefore, he could not yet be sued by the plaintiff.


         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable governing law.[2] A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could render a verdict for the nonmoving party.[3]

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact.[4] If the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of a material fact.[5] All facts and inferences are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[6]

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by pointing out that there is insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.[7] The motion should be granted if the nonmoving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element of its claim.[8]

         B. Reasonably Anticipated Use

         The plaintiff's claims arise under the LPLA. The LPLA provides the exclusive theories of liability under Louisiana law against manufacturers for the damage caused by their products.[9] To assert a products liability action under the LPLA, a plaintiff must establish four threshold elements: (1) that the defendant is a manufacturer of the product; (2) that the claimant's damage was proximately caused by a characteristic of the product; (3) that this characteristic made the product “unreasonably dangerous;” and (4) that the claimant's damage arose from a reasonably anticipated use of the product by the claimant or someone else.[10] A product may be unreasonably dangerous in one of four ways: (1) construction or composition, (2) design, (3) inadequate warning, and (4) failure to conform to an express warranty.[11] Here, the plaintiffs alleged ...

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