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Houtz v. Encore Medical Corporation

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 10, 2014

HELEN E. HOUTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ENCORE MEDICAL CORPORATION, ENCORE MEDICAL, L.P., DJO SURGICAL and DJO INCORPORATED, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Defendants Encore Medical Corporation, Encore Medical, L.P., DJO Incorporated, and DJO Surgical (hereinafter, "Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Helen E. Houtz's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, May 7, 2014, ECF No. 11 (hereinafter "Defs.' Mot."). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, filed April 25, 2014, alleges one count for negligence, based on various theories of liability, and one count for manufacturing defect based upon a theory of strict liability. Pl.'s Compl., Apr. 25, 2014, ECF No. 10 (hereinafter "Pl.'s Compl."). Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint against them in its entirety. This Court retains diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Consequently, Pennsylvania substantive law applies. See, e.g., Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 91-92 (1938).

For the reasons discussed, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. Insofar as Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts a claim for negligent failure to test and negligent sale in Count I, those claims are dismissed with prejudice. Insofar as Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts a claim for negligent failure to warn and negligent design in Count I, those claims are dismissed without prejudice with leave to file a second amended complaint in accordance with this Court's decision. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is denied with regard to Plaintiff's claim in Count II for manufacturing defect based upon a theory of strict liability.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 24, 2014, Plaintiff initiated the above-captioned civil action by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Pennsylvania. On March 30, 2014, Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441(a), and 1446. On April 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint with this Court alleging one count of negligence based upon various theories of liability and one count of strict liability due to a manufacturing defect. On May 7, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in its entirety. The following allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of the instant motion.

This case arises from the implantation and subsequent failure of an artificial knee replacement device produced by the Defendants and implanted into the Plaintiff on or about February 7, 2000 during a bilateral knee replacement surgery. Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 8. The surgery was performed by Kenneth Cherry, M.D., at the Center Valley Community Hospital, State College, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 6, 8. Prior to the surgery, Plaintiff was provided no indication or warning by Defendants that the artificial knee's post tibial insert and/or polyethylene was destined to fail or had any particular life expectancy. Id. ¶ 17. Though the knee replacements initially functioned satisfactorily[1], in April 2011, Plaintiff experienced an audible popping sensation in her left knee as she stood up from a sitting position. Id . ¶ 10. This caused her knee to become unstable and painful, leading her to seek medical attention at Mount Nittany Medical Center. Id. ¶ 10.

Once again, Dr. Cherry examined the Plaintiff and concluded that Plaintiff had suffered a failed tibial post, which is the portion of the knee implant that attaches to the lower half of an individual's leg. Id . ¶ 11-13. As a result, Dr. Cherry ultimately conducted a revision of the left tibial insert, the component of the knee that had failed. Id. ¶ 14. In his explanation of the failure, Dr. Cherry reported that "[t]he post is missing and marked irregularity of this region is noted.... The smaller fragment appears to represent the missing post and is markedly irregular at one end." Id. ¶ 16. As a result of the failure of the tibial post and the subsequent surgery, Plaintiff has suffered pain, discomfort, and instability in her left knee, and past and ongoing medical treatment, which may continue indefinitely. Id. ¶ 23(a)-(f).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the [factual] allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000).

A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the amended complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-664.

"In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must be mindful that federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading." Hellmann v. Kercher, No. 07-1373, 2008 WL 1969311 at * 3 (W.D. Pa. May 5, 2008) (Lancaster, J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the...claim is and the grounds on which it rests, '" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554 (quoting Conley v. Gibso n, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, even under this lower notice pleading standard, a plaintiff must do more than recite the elements of a cause of action, and then make a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief. See Hellmann, 2008 WL 1969311 at *3. Instead, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not "shown" - "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without ...


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