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Taylor v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.

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

December 5, 2019




         In this product-liability action, Defendant Smith & Nephew, Inc. (“S&N”) moved to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 12(b)(6). Plaintiff John Randolph Taylor subsequently sought leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion [54] is granted in part and moot in part, Plaintiff's motions [57, 59] are granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff is directed to file an amended complaint consistent with this Order.

         I. Background

         This case arises from a hip-replacement surgery gone awry. Taylor received a hip implant, the components of which were “designed, manufactured, distributed, sold and/or placed into the stream of commerce” by S&N. Pl.'s Third Am. Compl. [23] ¶ 8. The implant only caused him more pain, so Taylor underwent a second surgery. Id. ¶ 9. As a result of these operations, Taylor filed suit against S&N alleging several product-liability claims. See Id. ¶¶ 11- 18.

         Taylor now seeks to amend his complaint to clarify those claims. S&N concedes that the Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint “cure[s] some deficiencies in [Taylor's] pleadings, and the issues have been narrowed, ” but challenges the amendment as to Taylor's manufacturing-defect and implied-warranty claims. Def.'s Resp. [65] at 4; see also Def.'s Reply [70] at 2-3.

         II. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(A) allows a party to amend a pleading as a matter of course within 21 days of serving the pleading. A party may amend a pleading outside this three-week window “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The rule instructs that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. Indeed, “Rule 15(a) evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to amend.” Thomas v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 832 F.3d 586, 590 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Herrmann Holdings, Ltd v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 302 F.3d 552, 566 (5th Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “It is settled that the grant of leave to amend the pleadings pursuant to Rule 15(a) is within the discretion of the trial court.” Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1971). But “it is by no means automatic.” Wimm v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 3 F.3d 137, 139 (5th Cir. 1993) (quoting Addington v. Farmer's Elevator Mut. Ins. Co., 650 F.2d 663, 666 (5th Cir. 1981)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, “the district court may consider such factors as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment.” Id.

         A futility analysis is “identical, in practice, to the standard used for reviewing a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).” Thomas, 832 F.3d at 590 (quoting City of Clinton v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152 (5th Cir. 2010)). That is, the Fifth Circuit has interpreted “futility” to mean that “the amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.” Stripling v. Jordan Prod. Co., LLC, 234 F.3d 863, 873 (5th Cir. 2000). Under the well-known Rule 12(b)(6) standard, “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 Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim is facially plausible if the complaint ‘allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         S&N's motion to dismiss originally challenged Taylor's Third Amended Complaint. Although Taylor seeks to amend the Third Amended Complaint, the Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint contains the same previously-challenged claims, just with more detail, and S&N's arguments rest on the same grounds. Accordingly, they will be addressed collectively.

         A. Manufacturing-Defect Claim

         In his Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint, Taylor alleges that the components in his hip implant “were defective in design and/or manufacture.” Pl.'s Proposed Fourth Am. Compl. [59-1] ¶¶ 12, 15. S&N argues that the proposed complaint “does not identify which components deviated from specification” or “describe the alleged deviation[.]” Def.'s Resp. [65] at 4. Taylor replies that the complaint is sufficient, and he should be allowed to proceed to discovery to be more specific. Pl.'s Reply [71] at 3.

         In Mississippi, the Mississippi Products Liability Act (“MPLA”) “provides the exclusive remedy for products-liability claims[.]” Elliot v. El Paso Corp., 181 So.3d 263, 268 (Miss. 2015) (footnote and internal quotation marks omitted). The MPLA applies “in any action for damages caused by a product, including, but not limited to, any action based on a theory of strict liability in tort, negligence or breach of implied warranty, except for commercial damage to the product itself[.]” Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63. For ...

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