United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
MINOR S. PATTON, JR. AND LANA PATTON
BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORPORATION, ET AL.
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is Defendant Abbott Laboratories'
(“Abbott”) Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Record
Document 56. Plaintiffs Minor S. Patton, Jr. and Lana Patton
(collectively “Plaintiffs”) oppose the motion.
See Record Document 61-2. Abbott seeks dismissal of
all of Plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons set forth
below, Abbott's motion is hereby
bring this products liability action seeking recovery for
personal damages that they allegedly suffered resulting from
the use of Abbott's medical guidewire device (the
“Whisper Wire”) during Plaintiff Minor S. Patton,
Jr.'s (“Patton”) heart procedure. On July 2,
2014, Patton underwent a coronary angioplasty procedure
performed by Dr. Eric Reeves, M.D. (“Dr. Reeves”)
at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center. See Record
Document 56-1 at 4, ¶ 8, Defendant's Statement of
Uncontested Material Facts. During the procedure, part of the
Whisper Wire fractured while Dr. Reeves was manipulating the
wire in performing the surgery, which ultimately resulted in
a segment of the wire being left in Patton's heart after
Dr. Reeves and the assisting doctors decided no further
intervention was necessary given their belief that the wire
remnant did not pose any risk of harm to Patton. Id.
at 6, ¶ 12. Dr. Reeves later stated that the procedure
was complicated by Patton's particular anatomy that made
the process of manipulating the guidewire more difficult.
See id. at 4-5, ¶¶ 8-9.
seek damages for emotional distress, fear of future injury,
medical costs, and loss of enjoyment of life, all of which
Plaintiffs allege were caused by the use of Abbott's
Whisper Wire. See Record Document 1 at 4, ¶ 17;
Record Document 76. Abbott points to the statements of its
medical experts, and those of Patton's treating
cardiologists, that Patton has not been injured by the
Whisper Wire remnant and that it is highly unlikely he would
suffer any future injury. See Record Document 56-1
at 6, ¶ 12.
30, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint (the
“Complaint”) in this Court. See Record
Document 1. Plaintiffs bring a products liability action
against Defendant under the Louisiana Products Liability Act
(“LPLA”) for the damages they allegedly suffered
due to Abbott's Whisper Wire fracturing during
Patton's heart procedure. See id. at 4, ¶
17. Plaintiffs also bring a claim for breach of the implied
warranty of fitness. See Record Document 61-2 at 23.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure when “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Quality Infusion Care, Inc. v.
Health Care Serv. Corp., 628 F.3d 725, 728 (5th Cir.
2010). Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment,
after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a
party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof [at trial].” See Patrick v.
Ridge, 394 F.3d 311, 315 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986)). If the movant demonstrates the
absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, “the
nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine [dispute] for
trial.” Gen. Universal Sys., Inc. v. Lee, 379
F.3d 131, 141 (5th Cir. 2004). Where critical evidence is so
weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not
support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant, then summary
judgment should be granted. See Boudreaux v. Swift
Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). The
Fifth Circuit has cautioned that “conclusory
allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are
inadequate to satisfy” the nonmovant's burden in a
motion for summary judgment. Ramsey v. Henderson,
286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002).
Fifth Circuit has upheld summary judgment in products
liability cases, holding that the record evidence was
insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.
See Hebert v. Miles Pharmaceuticals, No. 92-4290,
1994 WL 10184, at *3 (E.D. La. Jan. 13, 1994) (“Indeed
in a products liability case if the claimant fails to come
forward with sufficient evidence of either a product defect
within the meaning of the law or that such ‘defect'
probably caused the damages, then the trial court should
enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of the
defendants.”) (citing Willett v. Baxter Int'l,
Inc., 929 F.2d 1094, 1100 (5th Cir. 1991) and
Anderson v. McNeilab, Inc., 831 F.2d 92, 93 (5th
Medical Causation Evidence for LPLA Claims
moves for summary judgment on the ground, inter
alia, that Plaintiffs' lack of medical causation
evidence precludes their recovery on any of their claims
under the LPLA. See Record Document 62 at 10.
Plaintiffs counter that expert medical testimony is not
necessary to establish causation in this case because the
issues are sufficiently within “common knowledge”
for a jury to perceive. See Record Document 61-2 at
12, 23. Plaintiffs further contend that they are not required
to put forth expert evidence as to a medical causation
because the testimony of Abbott's medical expert, Dr.
Reeves, establishes it for them. See Record Document
62 at 9. The Court disagrees. This Court's precedent (and
that of the Fifth Circuit and Louisiana state courts
addressing the issue) have consistently held that in tort
actions involving complex medical devices and concepts,
medical causation cannot be established without the aid of
expert medical testimony because these matters are not within
the common knowledge of a layperson. See, e.g.,
Rhodes v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,
No. 10-1695, 2013 WL 1282450, at *7-8 (W.D. La. Mar. 28,
2013) (“[A] finding of medical causation is not
something a layman can readily grasp or divine without some
expert guidance.”) (citing Hebert, 1994 WL
10184, at *2)).
case, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs' only expert is
Dr. Dana J. Medlin (“Dr. Medlin”), a
biomechanical engineer who Plaintiffs admit is not qualified
to (and does not intend to) render any opinion regarding
injury or medical causation. See Record Document
55-1 at 19. Just as in prior cases, “the lack of an
expert to establish causation is fatal to Plaintiffs'
claims.” Rhodes, 2013 WL 1282450, at *2
(citing Johnson v. E.I. DuPont deNemours & Co.,
Inc., 08-628, p. 7 (La.App. 5th Cir. 1/13/09), 7 So.3d
734, 740). The medical causation issues in this case are
“matters beyond the common knowledge of a lay
person”: they involve scientific concepts such as
endothelialization and vascular processes, the use of an
FDA-regulated medical device during a complex heart
procedure, and the risks and potential of harm associated
with such use, all of which “can hardly be
characterized as uncomplicated.” See Hebert,
1994 WL 10184, at *2; see also Record Document 62 at
9; Record Document 56-2 at 13-14. Contrary to Plaintiffs'
position, these are not “common ...