The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court
This Document Relates to: Judge David R. Herndon
ORDER DENYING REMAND AND MOTION FOR ORAL ARGUMENT
This matter is before the Court on the plaintiff's motion to remand the above-captioned matter to state court (Doc. 14) and plaintiff's motion for oral argument on the same (Doc. 27). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies plaintiff's motion to remand to state court. Further, the Court denies plaintiff's motion for oral argument as unnecessary.
Plaintiff brought this product liability action in Washington state court against the Bayer defendants and the Vancouver Clinic, among others. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff was injured as a result of using YAZ, an FDA-approved oral contraceptive prescription medication. The sole non-diverse defendant is The Vancouver Clinic -- the healthcare facility that prescribed and distributed the subject drug to the plaintiff. The Bayer defendants removed this action to the Western District of Washington, alleging that The Vancouver Clinic had been fraudulently joined. The action was subsequently transferred to this MDL with plaintiff's motion to remand pending.
Plaintiff brings causes of action sounding in strict liability, negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, misrepresentation and/or fraud, and statutory consumer protection. The Court assesses the viability of plaintiff's claims below.
A. Fraudulent Joinder Principles
"A plaintiff typically may choose its own forum, but it may not join a nondiverse defendant simply to destroy diversity jurisdiction." Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc.577 F.3d 752, 763 (7th Cir. 2009).See also Gottlieb v. Westin Hotel Co., 990 F.2d 323, 327 (7th Cir.1993) (collecting cases). "The 'fraudulent joinder' doctrine, therefore, permits a district court considering removal "to disregard, for jurisdictional purposes, the citizenship of certain nondiverse defendants, assume jurisdiction over a case, dismiss the nondiverse defendants, and thereby retain jurisdiction." Schur, 577 F.3d at 763.
In the context of jurisdiction, "fraudulent" is a term of art. See Poulosv. Naas Foods, Inc., 959 F.2d 69, 73 (7th Cir.1992). "Although false allegations of jurisdictional fact may make joinder fraudulent . . . in most cases fraudulent joinder involves a claim against an in-state defendant that simply has no chance of success whatever the plaintiff's motives." Id. (collecting cases). To prove fraudulent joinder, the out-of-state defendant must "show there exists no 'reasonable possibility that a state court would rule against the [in-state] defendant.'" Schwartz v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 174 F.3d 875, 878 (7th Cir.1999) (citing Poulos, 959 F.2d at 73)). See also Walton v. Bayer Corp., 643 F.3d 994, 999 (7th Cir. 2011) (fraudulent joinder is present where the claim against the non-diverse defendant is "utterly groundless"); Schur, 577 F.3d at 764 (in a fraudulent joinder analysis, the "district court must ask whether there is 'any reasonable possibility' that the plaintiff could prevail against the non-diverse defendant"). Although a defendant bears a "heavy duty" in this regard, "it need not negate any possible theory that [the plaintiff] might allege in the future: only [the plaintiff's] present allegations count." Poulos v. Naas Foods, Inc., 959 F.2d 69, 74 (7th Cir. 1992).
B. Plaintiff's "Product Liability" Claims
1. Washington Product Liability Act is the exclusive remedy for product-related harm The Washington Product Liability Act, RCW 7.72 et seq. ("WPLA"), abrogates traditional common law remedies for product-related harms, creating instead a single cause of action for any "product liability claim." Washington State Physicians Ins. Exch. & Ass'n v. Fisons Corp., 858 P.2d 1054, 1066 (Wash. 1993); Washington Water Power Co. v. ...