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Buff-Thompson v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

September 13, 2019

KRISTI BUFF-THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SMITH & NEPHEW, INC., a Delaware Corporation, a/k/a SMITH & NEPHEW Plc and/or SMITH & NEPHEW UK, Defendant, DONALD A. MITZELFELT, M.D., Respondent.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          JAMES E. SHADID, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court are Defendant Smith & Nephew, Inc.'s (“SNI”) Motion (Doc. 5) to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and Memorandum (Doc. 6) in Support; Plaintiff Thompson's Response (Doc. 9), and Memorandum in Support (Doc. 10); and Respondent Mitzelfelt's Motion (Doc. 7) to Dismiss, and Memorandum (Doc. 8) in Support. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant SNI's Motion (Doc. 5) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Respondent Mitzelfelt's Motion (Doc. 7) is GRANTED.

         Background

         Plaintiff Kristi Buff-Thompson filed her Complaint against SNI in state court on March 21, 2019. See Doc. 1-3. Thereafter, SNI removed the action to this Court. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she underwent hip replacement surgery on March 6, 2017. Id. at 2. Her surgery was performed by Donald A. Mitzelfelt, M.D., who used a “Smith and Nephew System” as part of the hip replacement procedure. Id. Between March 6 and March 21, 2017, Thompson began having difficulty with her hip and had increased pain and discomfort at or near the surgery site. On March 21, 2017, Thompson returned to the hospital complaining of severe pain and discomfort, and Dr. Mitzelfelt performed another surgery on Thompson's hip. At this time, Thompson became aware that SNI's hip replacement system had “a failed femoral head, polyethylene and acetabular shell including its locking mechanism requiring extensive revision.” Id. at 7. Thompson underwent additional surgeries due to the alleged defect in SNI's hip replacement system.

         Count 1 of Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a strict products liability claim against SNI; Count 2 alleges breach of warranty against SNI; Count 3 asserts a negligence claim against SNI. Additionally, under Count 4, Plaintiff designates Donald A. Mitzelfelt, M.D., as a respondent in discovery pursuant to a state procedural statute. Id. at 11.

         Defendant SNI now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim. See Doc. 5 (Motion), Doc. 6 (Memorandum). Additionally, Dr. Mitzelfelt moves for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Doc. 7 (Motion), Doc. 8 (Memorandum). Plaintiff filed a Response to SNI's Motion to Dismiss. See Doc. 9 (Response), Doc. 10 (Memorandum). Plaintiff did not respond to Dr. Mitzelfelt's Motion.

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges whether a complaint sufficiently states a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court accepts well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true and draws all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc., 799 F.3d 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to put defendants on notice as to the nature of the claim and its bases, and it must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief. Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint need not allege specific facts, but it may not rest entirely on conclusory statements or empty recitations of the elements of the cause of action. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         Discussion

         (A) SNI's Motion to Dismiss

         (1) Count 1

         SNI first moves for dismissal of Count 1, which asserts a strict products liability claim against SNI. Doc. 6, at 2-4. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that SNI manufactured, designed, assembled, distributed, and sold SNI hip replacement systems; SNI sold and placed its hip replacement system for use in Thompson's hip replacement surgery; Thompson underwent a second surgery to replace the “failed femoral head, polyethylene and acetabular shell including its locking mechanism, ” and that the SNI hip replacement system left control of SNI in a condition that was unreasonably dangerous, defective, and unsafe because of the poor quality of the components that were likely to fail. Doc. 1-3, at 6-8.

         SNI argues that Plaintiff's Complaint does not sufficiently allege a strict products liability cause of action against it because Plaintiff fails to allege how the product was defective in either manufacture or design. Doc. 6, at 2.

         “Under Illinois law, it is well-settled that recovery in a strict product liability action requires a plaintiff plead and prove that ‘the injury complained of resulted from a condition of the product, that the condition was unreasonably dangerous, and that it existed at the time the product left the manufacturer's control.' ” Smith v. Phoenix Seating Sys., LLC, 894 F.Supp.2d 1088, 1093 (S.D. Ill. 2012) (quoting Mikolajczyk v. Ford Motor Co., 231 Ill.2d 516 (2008)). A plaintiff may prove that a product is unreasonably dangerous by showing ...


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