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Reid v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 2, 2019

Patricia A. Reid, Plaintiff,
Wright Medical Technology, Inc.; Wright Medical Group, Inc.; Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc.; Zimmer US, Inc.; and Zimmer, Inc., Defendants.

          Michael D. Stinson and Ian A. Blodger, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, MN, for Plaintiff Patricia A. Reid.

          William L. Moran, HKM Law Group, St. Paul, MN, and Anne A. Gruner and Dana J. Ash, Duane Morris LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for Defendant Wright Medical Technology, Inc.


          Eric C. Tostrud United States District Judge

         Defendant Wright Medical Technology, Inc. (“WMT”) produces component parts used in hip replacement surgeries. In 2019, Plaintiff Patricia A. Reid commenced this case against WMT and others, alleging that she sustained injuries from artificial hip components produced by Defendants that were implanted during her hip replacement surgery in December 2012. WMT seeks to dismiss Count I of Reid's Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), though only to the extent that it alleges a strict liability claim based on a manufacturing defect. Mot. to Dismiss [ECF No. 17]. WMT's partial motion to dismiss will be denied because Reid's allegations describing significant deviations from the components' expected performance are enough to plead a plausible strict liability manufacturing defect claim.


         In December 2012, doctors at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis performed a total right hip arthroplasty, i.e., hip replacement surgery, on Reid. Am. Compl. ¶ 15 [ECF No. 1-1]. During the surgery, doctors implanted five artificial hip components designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed and sold by Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 16-17, 48, 50, 74, 76. Specifically, doctors implanted two components produced by Zimmer (the Zimmer Trilogy Cup and Longevity Liner) and three components produced by WMT (a metal femoral head, the Profemur cobalt-chromium neck, and the Profemur Plasma Z femoral stem). Id. ¶ 17. Reid expected the components to last for at least 20 years without any need for revision or replacement. Id. ¶ 26.

         In 2015, Reid sought medical treatment for pain in her right hip. Id. ¶ 29. Reid's doctor determined that she was suffering from an “adverse local tissue reaction, ” possibly related to “metallosis” or corrosion from the implant. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. In May 2016, Reid's doctor performed a revision of her surgery. Id. ¶ 32. Reid's doctor replaced the neck and head components produced by WMT and the liner produced by Zimmer, observing during that surgery the existence of corrosion and “particulate wear debris . . . throughout the entire joint.” Id. ¶¶ 33-35, 39-40. In December 2016, the FDA issued a recall of WMT's metal femoral head based on increased rates of revision surgeries and the risk of a tissue reaction. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. The FDA determined that the cause of the recall was “defective design.” Id. ¶ 43. The recall specifically identified the serial number of the metal femoral head used in Reid's initial surgery. Id. ¶ 41.

         In May 2019, Reid commenced this action by serving Defendants with a Complaint claiming that she sustained injuries caused by the artificial hip components produced by Defendants. See Def. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 1-2 [ECF No. 1]; Mem. in Opp'n at 3 [ECF No. 27]; Minn. R. Civ. P. 3.01(a). One month later, Reid provided an Amended Complaint to Defendants, asserting strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty claims.[1]Defendants removed the case to federal court, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Def. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 7-24. In June 2019, the Parties filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal of all claims against Defendants Wright Medical Group, Inc. and Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. and of Count VI (Breach of Warranty) against all remaining Defendants. Stip. of Dismissal [ECF No. 15]. This Court subsequently issued an order approving the Parties' stipulation and dismissing those claims without prejudice. Order re Stip. [ECF No. 25].

         The remaining parties are of diverse citizenship-WMT is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Tennessee, the Zimmer Defendants are Delaware corporations with their principal place of business in Indiana, and Reid is a citizen of Minnesota. Def. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 7-8, 11-12. Reid asserts exclusively state-law claims against Defendants, seeks compensatory damages “in an amount exceeding $50, 000.00 to be proven at trial, ” alleges injuries that more likely than not establish an amount in controversy above the $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold, and reserves the right to seek amendment to plead a claim for punitive damages against WMT. See Am. Compl. ¶ 46, 62 and Counts I-V; Def. Notice of Removal ¶¶ 14-24; see also Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009) (stating defendant seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction through removal “has the burden to prove the requisite amount by a preponderance of the evidence” (quotation omitted)). Reid has not moved for remand or otherwise contested the valuation of her claims. Thus, this case is properly in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

         WMT has moved, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), to partially dismiss Count I of Reid's Amended Complaint. Count I asserts a strict liability claim against WMT under both defective design and defective manufacturing theories. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-62. WMT seeks to dismiss Count I only with respect to the strict liability claim based on a manufacturing defect. See Mem. in Supp. at 3 n. 2 [ECF No. 18].


         In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Gorog v. Best Buy Co., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Although the factual allegations need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         “As this action is in federal court based on diversity of citizenship, state law governs substantive law issues.” Paine v. Jefferson Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 594 F.3d 989, 992 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); see also Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938). The Parties appear to agree that Minnesota law governs here as both parties cite to Minnesota law and neither party ...

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