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Jackson v. Monsanto Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

August 16, 2018

GARY JACKSON PLAINTIFF
v.
MONSANTO COMPANY, SOLUTIA, INC., PHARMACIA, LLC f/k/a PHARMACIA CORPORATION, PFIZER, INC., TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION CORPORATION, TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION, LP, PANENERGY CORP., DUKE ENERGY CORPORATION, SPECTRA ENERGY CORPORATION, and JOHN DOES 1-100 DEFENDANTS

          ORDER AND OPINION

          DAVID BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Monsanto Company, Solutia, Inc., Pharmacia, LLC f/k/a Pharmacia Corporation, and Pfizer, Inc. (collectively, “Monsanto”) invoke Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and move the Court to dismiss counts I-VI of Gary Jackson's amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Jackson 14 days to file a second amended complaint tailoring his claims and allegations of product-based harm to the Mississippi Products Liability Act. See Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63.

         Background

         This dispute arises from Gary Jackson's alleged exposure to Monsanto-manufactured products containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Jackson alleges his exposure to PCBs from Monsanto products caused him to develop a rare form of cancer called chondrosarcoma.

         For 15 years, Jackson worked as a pipeliner for Texas Eastern Transmission, LP.[1] Jackson's primary duty was to service Texas Eastern compressor stations that used Monsanto-manufactured PCB-based lubricant. According to Jackson, Texas Eastern began to “phase out” PCB-based lubricants in 1972, and in so doing, dumped hundreds of PCB-containing drums into landfills near compressor stations.

         Jackson alleges Texas Eastern “intentionally forced” him to unearth PCB-containing drums from landfills. He also alleges he was exposed to Monsanto-manufactured PCB-based lubricants performing his daily duties: monitoring the compressors, removing pipeline liquids, and cleaning the compressor station.

         Jackson sued Texas Eastern and Monsanto and invoked the Court's diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Against Monsanto, Jackson alleges claims of negligence, strict liability, products liability, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and civil conspiracy.

         Monsanto moves to dismiss Jackson's claims for failure to state a claim. Monsanto insists the Court “must” dismiss Jackson's product-based claims because Jackson's allegations do not track the Mississippi Products Liability Act. And it contends Jackson's conspiracy claim is not plausibly pleaded. Jackson opposes. He rejoins that his complaint need not cite the Mississippi Products Liability Act and he asks, in the alternative, for leave to amend.

         I

         To overcome Monsanto's motion, Jackson must plead a plausible claim for relief. Romero v. City of Grapevine, Tex., 888 F.3d 170, 176 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim is plausible if it is pleaded with factual content that allows the Court to reasonably infer that Monsanto is liable for the misconduct alleged. Edionwe v. Bailey, 860 F.3d 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         In ruling on Monsanto's motion, the Court accepts the amended complaint's well-pleaded facts as true and views them in the light most favorable to Jackson. Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018).

         II

         Because the Court's jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, the Court applies Mississippi substantive law. Mid-Continent Cas. Co. v. Swift Energy Co., 206 F.3d 487, 491 (5th Cir. ...


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