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Sawyer v. Purdue Pharmaceutical Corporation

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 27, 2013

ANTHON.Y.S. SAWYER, Plaintiff,


MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

For the reasons that follow, defendant Purdue's[1] motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 47) is granted; plaintiff Anthony S. Sawyer's motion to amend (ECF Nos. 60 & 61) is denied.

I. General Background

On August 10, 2011, plaintiff Anthony S. Sawyer (hereinafter, "Sawyer"), then (as now) an inmate of the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood and proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, [2] filed a complaint against defendant Purdue, a maker of pharmaceuticals.

In short, the complaint alleged, first, that Purdue was negligent in producing and marketing the drug OxyContin[3] - which Sawyer began taking in 1999 and continued to take for roughly the next decade - and, second, that Purdue breached the warranty of merchantability in relation to OxyContin. (Sawyer Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 1-16 (hereinafter, "Sawyer Compl.")). Sawyer alleged that, as a result of Purdue's conduct, he was prescribed OxyContin and consequently "suffered serious and permanent brain damage, mental and physical pain, shock and suffering, and other injuries not completely diagnosed." (Sawyer Compl. ¶ 8).

Magistrate Judge Smyser ordered discovery to be completed by April 6, 2012 (ECF No. 26), a deadline that was subsequently extended to August 6, 2012 (ECF No. 37), and then extended again to November 6, 2012 (ECF No. 46).

On January 9, 2013, Purdue filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 47). On February 14, 2013, well after the time for Sawyer to file opposing papers in accordance with this Court's Local Rules had elapsed, Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle, III issued an order to show cause, which explained that, if Sawyer did not file papers opposing Purdue's motion by March 15, 2013, Purdue's motion would be deemed unopposed. (ECF No. 52). On March 4, 2013, upon Sawyer's motion, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle granted Sawyer an extension, requiring his opposing papers to be filed not later than April 9, 2013. (ECF No. 54). Magistrate Judge Arbuckle granted a further extension on April 9, 2013, making Sawyer's papers due April 19, 2013. (ECF No. 56).

On April 30, 2013, counsel for Purdue notified the Court that Sawyer had, up to that time, still not filed papers opposing its motion for summary judgment; Purdue sought to have all of its factual averments deemed admitted in accordance with Local Rules 7.6 & 56.1 (party failing to timely oppose motion "shall be deemed not to oppose such motion"). (ECF No. 58).

Sawyer finally filed a brief in opposition to Purdue's motion for summary judgment on May 6, 2013 (ECF No. 59) in conjunction with a motion requesting leave to amend his complaint in order to allege that he had come to "suffer[] from opioid dependency, mania and related injuries" as a result of Purdue's negligence and breach of warranties, not "brain damage, " as originally alleged. (ECF Nos. 60-61). Apparently assuming his motion to amend would be granted, Sawyer devoted his papers opposing summary judgment to establishing that his refashioned claims alleging "the injury of drug addiction" should survive, not his claims alleging "brain damage." (Sawyer Opp'n Br., May 6, 2013, ECF No. 59 at 3 (hereinafter, "Sawyer Opp'n Br."))

Purdue submitted a reply to Sawyer's brief in opposition on May 20, 2013 (ECF No. 62) and opposed his motion to amend his complaint on May 24, 2013 (ECF No. 63).

In response to the Court's June 4, 2013 order to file a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B) for retroactive extension of the time for filing papers in opposition to summary judgment, Sawyer wrote that his pro se status coupled with being "completely buried... in mountains of paper [discovery]... [and] struggl[ing]... to read and comprehend [a] voluminous record, and to make sense of it... [in order] to respond to the various motions and pleadings that the Court requires" constituted "excusable neglect" warranting an extension under the Federal Rules. (ECF No. 65).

II. Preliminary Matters

With respect to Sawyer's motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B), because the Court prefers to decide cases on the merits, and because the Court agrees with Sawyer that his neglect in filing his papers out of time is excusable - especially when the Court takes account of Sawyer's memory problems (resulting from Traumatic Brain Injury) and limited access to the prison law library (see ECF No. 56) - the Court will grant Sawyer's motion for a retroactive extension and deem his opposing papers timely filed.

Of course, Sawyer sought leave to amend his claims on the same date that he submitted his papers opposing summary judgment, which complicates matters slightly. By not incorporating his original complaint by reference, Sawyer intends his amended complaint to supercede the original. 3 Moore's Federal Practice § 15.17[3] (Matthew Bender 3d ed.) ("An amended pleading that is complete in itself and does not reference or adopt any portion of the prior pleading supersedes the prior pleading."). Indeed, as ...

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