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Oechsle v. Biomet Microfixation, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

November 18, 2013

JERRY OECHSLE, Plaintiff,
v.
BIOMET MICROFIXATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Defendant Biomet Microfixation, LLC ("Biomet") moves to dismiss Jerry Oechsle's ("Plaintiff") complaint in its entirety as time-barred. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted.

Background

Plaintiff alleges that Biomet designed, manufactured, sold, distributed and placed into the stream of commerce the Open Interpore Cross System ("Interpore Cross"), which is a titanium rod and screw instrumentation system used in spinal surgeries. Plaintiff had the Interpore Cross implanted in him on March 11, 2002 as part of a post-lateral fusion spinal surgery. In August or October 2005, Plaintiff had surgery for a nonunion of an L3 burst fracture. At that time it was discovered that the titanium rods had fractured and caused the spinal fusion procedure to fail, and the Interpore Cross had to be removed.

On September 17, 2012 Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County. On April 3, 2013 Plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming Biomet and alleging strict product liability, breach of implied warranty, negligence and breach of express warranty. Biomet subsequently removed the case to the Northern District of Illinois based on diversity of citizenship. Biomet now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety alleging all of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, Plaintiff's strict liability claim is barred by the statute of repose and all of Plaintiff's claims are barred because he failed to disclose them in a prior bankruptcy proceeding.

Legal Standard

In order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). A motion to dismiss is decided solely on the face of the complaint and any attachments that accompanied its filing. Miller v. Herman, 600 F.3d 726, 733 (7th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007).

Discussion

While a plaintiff need not anticipate or negate an affirmative defense in his complaint, a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if the allegations in the complaint show that the claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Cummins v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 2009 WL 1851183 at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 29, 2009).

1. Plaintiff's breach of warranty claims

The statute of limitations for a breach of warranty action is four years from the date the cause of action accrues. 810 ILCS 5/2-725(1). A cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run, when delivery is made, regardless of when the defect is discovered. 810 ILCS 5/2-725(2). An exception applies "where a warranty explicitly extends to future performance of the goods and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance." Id. The Interpore Cross was delivered, at the latest, when it was implanted on or before March 11, 2002. Plaintiff's amended complaint is devoid of any explicit assurances from Biomet and any specific future time frame to which any such warranty would extend. See Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Nat'l Tank Co., 91 Ill.2d 69, 94 (1982) ("[t]he mere expectation that a product's warranty extends for the life of the product does not delay the point at which the statute of limitations commences to run... except upon a warranty explicitly extending to future performance"). Thus, plaintiff's claims for breach warranty expired March 11, 2006 and are time-barred.

2. Plaintiff's strict liability and negligence claims

The parties do not dispute that the relevant statute of limitations for strict liability and negligence claims is two years from the date that the cause of action accrues. 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b) (strict liability); 735 ILCS 5/13-202 (negligence); see also Werckenthein v. Bucher Petrochemical Co., 248 Ill.App.3d 282 (1st Dist. 1993) (noting that "[t]here is little practical difference between the limitations period" for strict liability and negligence claims). Where an injury is a result of a sudden or traumatic event, even if the specific cause of the injury was unclear at the time of the event, the cause of action accrues at the time of the injury. Cummins, 2009 WL 1851183 at *2. Courts reason that the nature and circumstances surrounding the traumatic event are such that the injured party is put on notice that actionable conduct might be involved. Id. For injuries that are not readily discoverable, the Illinois discovery rule provides that a cause of action accrues when an injured party knew or should have known of the injury and that the injury was wrongfully caused. Franz v. Purdue Pharma Co., 2006 WL 455998 (D.N.H. Feb. 22, 2006) (applying Illinois personal injury law) (quoting Kumpfer ...


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