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Williamson v. Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 22, 2017

Allen WILLIAMSON, D.O. and WIFE, Kathryn WILLIAMSON, D.O., Plaintiffs,
v.
DAIICHI SANKYO, Inc., et al., Defendants. Master No. 15-2606 (RBK/JS)

          SUMMARY JUDGMENT OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, United State District Judge

         In response to defendants Kothapalli's joint motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for statute of limitations, this court notified the parties of its consolidation and conversion of these motions into a summary judgment motion and invited submission of any other evidence in opposition or support. Neither party has submitted subsequent evidence. For the reasons set forth below, the motion of summary judgment will be GRANTED in favor of defendants Kothapalli.

         1.0 Facts and Procedural Background

         On 14 April 2015, all claims involving olmesartan-containing prescription drugs, which allegedly result in certain gastro-intestinal injuries, were consolidated as a Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”) in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Defendants are the drug manufacturers or distributors: Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd., Daiichi Sankyo U.S. Holdings, Inc., Forest Laboratories, LLC, Forest Laboratories, Inc., Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Forest Research Institute, Inc. [hereinafter “Daiichi defendants”].

         On 8 July 2016-more than a year after MDL consolidation of olmesartan product liability complaints-plaintiffs, residents of Texas, filed a civil action in the District Court of Jefferson County, Texas [“the state action”] against the Daiichi defendants and against Texas resident defendants Srinivasa Rao Kothapalli, M.D. and Srinivasa Rao Kothapalli, P.A. (hereinafter “Dr. Kothapalli” or “defendants Kothapalli”). They asserted two claims: first, product liability claims against the Daiichi defendants arising from plaintiff Dr. Alan Williamson's injuries allegedly due to his ingestion of defendants' olmesartan-containing drug; and second, a medical malpractice claim under the Texas Medical Liability Act (“TMLA”] against Dr. Kothapalli for prescribing Dr. Williamson the drug.

         On 11 August 2016, the Daiichi defendants removed the state action to the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas (“the federal action”), which was then transferred to this Court (“the MDL matter”).

         On 19 September 2016, plaintiffs made a motion to this court to remand the MDL matter back to Texas state court, asserting removal to federal court had been improper. Complete federal diversity jurisdiction was lacking because Dr. Kothapalli, a Texas resident, had been named defendant in the state action. In opposition, defendants argued plaintiffs' medical malpractice claim against Dr. Kothapalli was insufficiently pleaded under the TMLA; consequently, Dr. Kothapalli had been included in the state action solely to defeat diversity jurisdiction.

         On 27 October 2017, before this court had ruled on the remand motion, defendants Kothapalli filed in Texas state court a motion for summary judgment, which included a notarized affidavit by Dr. Kothapalli that averred his one-time treatment of the plaintiff had occurred almost five years before the medical liability claim had been filed.

         On 31 January 2017, this court concluded plaintiffs had fraudulently joined defendants Kothapalli and denied remand of the MDL matter back to state court. The decision relied on Dr. Kothapalli's affidavit that established his treatment of Dr. Williamson had occurred more than the two-year, strict statute of limitations allowed by the TMLA for pursuing a medical liability action. This decision also found defendants Kothapalli ineligible to be named defendants in a complaint pleading medical liability claims under the TMLA. Following on the fraudulent joinder decision, on 16 February 2017, defendants Kothapalli filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b) (6) and a motion to dismiss for statute of limitations (“the joint dismissal motions”), arguing that a claim under the TMLA (the only available action under Texas law for physician malpractice) was unsupported in law and therefore not actionable.

         On 01 March 2017, in their response, plaintiffs again took up the argument that this court lacked jurisdiction over the state medical liability claim and should remand the motions back to state court. As this court had already denied plaintiffs' motion to remand the state action because of fraudulent joinder-therefore retaining jurisdiction over the MDL matter- plaintiffs' arguments appeared a veiled request for remand reconsideration and were largely unresponsive to the joint dismissal motions for failure to address the statute of limitation implications of Dr. Kothapalli's affidavit.

         On 09 March 2007, in response to the joint dismissal motions and plaintiffs' response, this court notified the parties of its conversion the joint dismissal motions into a summary judgment motion under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56 and invited their response by 07 April 2017. Since the conversion into a summary judgment motion, neither party has submitted further evidence relating to Dr. Kothapalli's affidavit.

         On 29 March 2017, plaintiffs filed a motion for voluntary dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 41 (a) (2) because defendants Kothapalli had refused to stipulate to a voluntary dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 41 (a) (1) (A) (ii). Plaintiffs are therefore seeking dismissal by court order of the action against defendants Kothapalli without prejudice.

         2.0 Issue

         In responding to this court's sua sponte summary judgment motion, plaintiffs requested a Rule 41 (a) (2) dismissal of the complaint against defendants Kothapalli and cited Eleventh Circuit case law in support, arguing the parties' minor effort and expense and the ...


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