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DORFMAN v. E. R. SQUIBB & SONS

August 22, 1985

SCOTT DORFMAN, a minor, by his parents and natural guardians, JERRY A. DORFMAN and ABBE L. DORFMAN, and JERRY A. DORFMAN and ABBE L. DORFMAN, in their own right
v.
E. R. SQUIBB & SONS, INC



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

 BRODERICK, J.

 This action originally was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on May 11, 1983. The plaintiffs are Scott Dorfman, a minor child, and his parents, Jerry and Abbe Dorfman. The complaint alleges that Scott Dorfman was born prematurely on August 9, 1981, and that the premature birth caused brain damage, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy. The defendants named in the complaint are E. R. Squibb and Sons, Inc. (Squibb) and four obstetricians named individually and as members of their professional corporation (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the obstetricians"). The complaint alleges that in 1955 plaintiff Abbe Dorfman's mother, Elenor Gross, ingested the drug Diethylstibestrol (D.E.S.) while pregnant with Abbe; that Abbe was exposed to D.E.S. in utero ; and that as a result of that exposure Abbe developed certain abnormalities in her reproductive system which created a substantial danger of premature delivery in the event Abbe became pregnant. The first cause of action (on behalf of Scott Dorfman) alleges that the obstetrician defendants were negligent in their care of Abbe Dorfman during her pregnancy in 1981 in that they knew or should have known that Abbe's mother had ingested D.E.S. while pregnant with Abbe; that they failed to determine the nature and extent of the abnormalities in the reproductive system of Abbe Dorfman caused by her exposure to D.E.S.; that they failed to properly treat Abbe to prevent premature delivery of her baby; that they failed to advise Abbe with regard to restrictions on her activity during her pregnancy; and that they failed to properly deliver Scott Dorfman. The second and third causes of action are brought by Scott's parents, in their own right, for injuries and damages arising from the obstetricians' alleged negligence with respect to the care of Abbe Dorfman and the delivery of Scott Dorfman in 1981.

 As noted above, this action was filed in the Court of Common Pleas in 1983. Trial eventually was scheduled for September 30, 1985 before the Honorable Leon Katz. On May 20, 1985, counsel for the defendant obstetricians filed a motion for summary judgment in the Court of Common Pleas grounded upon the plaintiffs' inability to produce any expert evidence with respect to their malpractice claims against the obstetricians. In a letter to the Clerk of the Common Pleas Motion Court dated June 7, 1985, counsel for plaintiffs stated he would not be filing a response to the defendant-obstetricians' motion for summary judgment. In an order dated June 24, 1985, Judge Katz granted the obstetricians' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in their favor.

 On July 24, 1985, defendant Squibb - the sole remaining defendant - filed a petition for removal to this Court, alleging diversity of citizenship between Squibb and the plaintiffs, and alleging that the petition was timely in that it was filed within thirty days after it could "first be ascertained" that the case had "become removable" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) (i.e., thirty days after judgment was entered in favor of the non-diverse defendant obstetricians). The plaintiffs have filed a motion to remand this case to the Court of Common Pleas. The plaintiffs contend that the case was improvidently removed in that, inter alia, the petition for removal is deficient in failing to allege the citizenship of the parties at the time of the commencement of the suit, and that the petition is untimely because the claims set forth in the complaint against Squibb are "separate and independent" from the claims set forth in the complaint against the obstetricians (see 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c)), and that therefore Squibb should have filed its removal petition within thirty days after service of the complaint in May of 1983. For the reasons set forth below this Court has determined that this action was improvidently removed, and accordingly the plaintiffs' motion to remand will be granted and this case will be remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

 Subsection (b) of 28 U.S.C. § 1446 states as follows:

 
The petition for removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed within thirty days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based, or within thirty days after the service of summons upon the defendant if such initial pleading has then been filed in court and is not required to be served on the defendant, whichever period is shorter.
 
If the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a petition for removal may be filed within thirty days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.

 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) provides:

 
(c) Whenever a separate and independent claim or cause of action, which would be removable if sued upon alone, is joined with one or more otherwise nonremovable claims or causes of action, the entire case may be removed and the district court may determine all issues therein, or, in its discretion, may remand all matters not otherwise within its original jurisdiction.

 As noted above, the plaintiff contends that the cause of action against Squibb was "separate and independent," on the face of the complaint, from the cause of action against the defendant obstetricians; that under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) the case was "removable" by Squibb at the time it was filed in the state court; and that because Squibb failed to file its petition for removal within thirty days after service of the complaint, its petition was not timely filed. Thus the issue (with respect to this contention of the plaintiffs) is whether or not the complaint sets forth a "separate and independent claim or cause of action" against Squibb, which would "be removable if sued upon alone," within the meaning of Section 1441(c). If so, the case was "removable" by Squibb at the time the complaint was served, and Squibb's removal petition was not timely filed.

 In 1951 the Supreme Court examined the then-recently amended Section 1441(c) and determined that the 1948 change in language from "separable controversy" to the present "separate and independent claim or cause of action" evidenced a Congressional intent to restrict removal. American Fire and Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 12, 71 S. Ct. 534, 539, 95 L. Ed. 702 (1951). In Finn, the plaintiff, a Texan, sued two non-resident insurance companies and their Texas agent, alleging alternative claims for recovery for a fire loss, i.e., that one or the other insurer had issued policies or that the agent was liable for failing to insure plaintiff's property. The non-resident defendants removed the case to federal court pursuant to Section 1441(c). The Supreme Court, in ...


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