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Yingst v. Novartis AG

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 24, 2014

KERRI YINGST, on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
NOVARTIS AG, NOVARTIS CORPORATION, NOVARTIS CONSUMER HEALTH, INC., Defendants

For KERRI YINGST, on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff: TODD D. MUHLSTOCK, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAKER SANDERS LLC, GARDEN CITY, NY.

For NOVARTIS CONSUMER HEALTH, INC., Defendant: JOHN T. COYNE, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCELROY, DEUTSCH, MULVANEY & CARPENTER, LLP, MORRISTOWN, NJ.

Page 413

OPINION & ORDER

CLAIRE C. CECCHI, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon motion of Defendant Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. (" Defendant" ) to dismiss Plaintiff Kerri Yingst's (" Plaintiff" ) complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 13.] Plaintiff opposes the motion. [ECF No. 25.] The motion is decided without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

In October 2013, Plaintiff purchased Excedrin Migraine in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in order to relieve her migraines. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Around the time of purchase, " Plaintiff noticed that Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin Extra Strength seemed to consist of identical ingredients in identical quantities but believed that because Excedrin Migraine was sold at a higher price, it was a more effective product for migraine relief than Excedrin Extra Strength." (Id. at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff brings this lawsuit under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the " NJCFA" or the " Act" ) and New Jersey common law on behalf of " [a]ll persons who purchased Excedrin Migraine at a higher price than Excedrin Extra Strength on or after August 1, 2005" . (Id. at ¶ 22.)

Excedrin Extra Strength is an over-the-counter combination pain reliever that was first approved in the 1960s by the Food and Drug Administration (the " FDA" ) for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains due to headache. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 10-11.) Each unit of Excedrin Extra Strength contains active ingredients of 250 milligrams of acetaminophen, 250 milligrams of aspirin, and 65 milligrams of caffeine. (Id. at ¶ 11.) The FDA approved Excedrin Migraine in January 1998 for the temporary relief of mild to moderate migraine headache pain with the same formulation and dosage as Excedrin Extra Strength. (Id. at ¶ 13.) As Plaintiff notes, " [n]ewspaper ads published in February 1998 emphasized the identical formulation of Excedrin

Page 414

Migraine and Excedrin Extra Strength." (Id. at ¶ 14.) These ads stated: " Clinical research has just proven that the formula in Excedrin actually relieves migraine pain. And because of the distinct nature of migraines, the FDA worked with Excedrin to develop a different package with specific information for migraine sufferers. So now next to Excedrin, there's a new package--same medicine--called Excedrin Migraine." (Id.)

Briston-Myers Squibb, Co., Defendant's predecessor in interest, sold both Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Migraine " at the same wholesale price and provided the same suggested retail price for both products." (Id. at ¶ 16.) Currently, Defendant sells 24-count packages of Excedrin Migraine at a wholesale price of $3.60 and Excedrin Extra Strength at a wholesale price of $3.20. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Defendant sells 100-count packages of Excedrin Migraine at $10.25 wholesale, and Excedrin Extra Strength at $9.05 wholesale. (Id.) Defendant also sells 200-count packages of Excedrin Migraine at $13.50 wholesale, compared to the $12.00 wholesale price for Excedrin Extra Strength. (Id.) These wholesale prices, Plaintiff alleges, are reflected in the higher retail prices paid by customers at stores like Walmart, Amazon.com, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Amazon.com is home to the highest retail price differential alleged by Plaintiff: a $1.05 variance between the 300-count packages of Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Migraine. (Id.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

For a complaint to survive dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), it " 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny,515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). " Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, " [a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic ...


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