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City of Wyoming v. Procter & Gamble Co.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 5, 2019

CITY OF WYOMING, MINNESOTA; VILLAGE OF HOLMEN, WISCONSIN; CITY OF ELK RIVER, MINNESOTA; CITY OF MANKATO, MINNESOTA; CITY OF PERHAM, MINNESOTA; CITY OF PRINCETON, MINNESOTA; CITY OF FERGUS FALLS, MINNESOTA; SAUK CENTRE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION; and CHISAGO LAKES JOINT SEWAGE TREATMENT COMMISSION, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY; KIMBERLY-CLARK CORPORATION; NICE-PAK PRODUCTS, INC; PROFESSIONAL DISPOSABLES INTERNATIONAL, INC.; TUFCO TECHNOLOGIES INC.; and ROCKLINE INDUSTRIES, Defendants.

          DANIEL E. GUSTAFSON, JASON S. KILENE, JOSHUA J. RISSMAN, AND RAINA C. BORRELLI, GUSTAFSON GLUEK PLLC, AND SIMON B. PARIS, PATRICK HOWARD, AND CHARLES J. KOCHER, SALTZ, MONGELUZZI, BARRETT & BENDESKY, P.C., FOR PLAINTIFFS.

          JOHN Q. LEWIS, KARL A. BEKENY, DUSTIN B. RAWLIN, I, MICHAEL J. RUTTINGER, JENNIFER L. MESKO, AND CHELSEA M. CROY SMITH, TUCKER ELLIS LLP, AND GEORGE W. SOULE AND MELISSA R. STULL, SOULE & STULL LLC, FOR DEFENDANTS NICE-PAK PRODUCTS, INC. AND PROFESSIONAL DISPOSABLES INTERNATIONAL, INC.

          NICOLE M. MOEN, FREDRIKSON & BYRON, PA, EMILY JOHNSON HENN, COVINGTON & BURLING LLP, AND HENRY B. LIU AND CLAIRE CATALANO DEAN, COVINGTON & BURLING LLP, FOR DEFENDANT PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY.

          AARON D. VAN OORT, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP, FOR DEFENDANT TUFCO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.

          KARA L. MCCALL, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, EAMON P. JOYCE, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, AND TRACY J. VAN STEENBURGH, NILAN JOHNSON LEWIS PA, FOR DEFENDANT KIMBERLY-CLARK CORPORATION.

          JERRY W. BLACKWELL, S. JAMAL FALEEL, AND EMILY A. AMBROSE, BLACKWELL BURKE PA, FOR DEFENDANT ROCKLINE INDUSTRIES.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS SETTLING DEFENDANTS

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiffs brought this putative class action in April 2015 against companies marketing and selling “flushable wipes.” (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, Apr. 23, 2015, Docket No. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that the wipes do not degrade as advertised and have caused damages to sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants. (Id. ¶ 3.)

         Several defendants have reached settlements with Plaintiffs. Tufco Technologies Inc. (“Tufco”), Procter & Gamble Company (“P&G”), Nice-Pak Products, Inc. (“Nice-Pak”), and Professional Disposables International, Inc. (“PDI”) (collectively the “Settling Defendants”) all filed stipulations for dismissal jointly with Plaintiffs. (Order on Stips. for Dismissal (“Order”) at 2-3, Aug. 7, 2018, Docket No. 481.) Defendants Kimberly-Clark Corporation (“Kimberly-Clark”) and Rockline Industries (“Rockline”) objected. (Id.) The Court rejected the Settling Defendants' stipulations because they were not signed by all parties as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). (Id. at 3, 6.)

         The City of Wyoming and all Defendants jointly filed a Stipulation of Dismissal of the City of Wyoming's claims against all Defendants, also pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). (Id. at 3, 6-7.) The Court found that the stipulation was valid because it was signed on behalf of all parties. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs' have now filed a Motion to Dismiss the Settling Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). (Pls.' Mot. to Dismiss Settling Defs., Sept. 26, 2018, Docket No. 581.) The Settling Defendants move to join the Motion. (Settling Defs.' Mot. for Joinder (“Joinder Mot.”), Oct. 4, 2018, Docket No. 590.) Kimberly-Clark and Rockline oppose the motion to the extent that it seeks dismissal without conditions. (Kimberly-Clark and Rockline's Mem. Opp. (“Mem. Opp.”) at 5, 7, Oct. 17, 2018, Docket No. 604.) Kimberly-Clark and Rockline ask that the Court impose two conditions: (1) requiring Plaintiffs to provide settlement related discovery, and (2) retaining personal jurisdiction over the Settling Defendants. (Id. at 14, 24.)

         The Court will grant Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss without conditions. Because Kimberly-Clark and Rockline's request for a discovery condition is more properly the subject of a discovery motion, the Court will not impose the condition. Furthermore, because the deadline for disclosure of witnesses passed long ago, there is no need for the Court to retain personal jurisdiction over the Settling Defendants as a condition of the dismissal.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs represent that they reached a settlement with Tufco because it is a contract-manufacturer of flushable wipes and does not make labeling decisions, thus it was unlikely to be held liable. (Pls.' Mem. Supp. at 3, Sept. 26, 2018, Docket No. 583.) They represent that they reached a settlement with P&G because its share of the flushable wipes market is so small. (Id.) Plaintiffs represent that Nice-Pak and PDI ...


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