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Jeffries v. Boston Scientific Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 10, 2016




         On November 16, 2015, Plaintiff Monica Jeffries, proceeding pro se, filed this product liability action, alleging she had been harmed by a Greenfield Inferior Vena Cava Filter (“IVC filter”) “designed, manufactured, prepared, compounded, assembling [sic], processed, labeled, marketed, distributed, and sold by” the Defendants “Boston Scientific [sic]” and “Boston Scientific/Ray Elliott, ” hereafter “BSC.” ECF No. 1. On February 29, 2016, BSC moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, lack of standing, and failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 12, 13. The issues have been briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6. Because Jeffries’ Complaint suffers from multiple fatal flaws, the Motion to Dismiss shall be granted, but Jeffries shall have thirty (30) days in which to file an Amended Complaint that complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and addresses the problems the Court outlines.


         BSC “is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Massachusetts.” ECF No. 13, at 9. Jeffries is a Maryland resident, ECF No. 1, at 1, who alleges that she was implanted with an IVC filter on March 29, 1995, ECF No. 17, at 5. Jeffries asserts that this filter was the Greenfield IVC Filter made by BSC. ECF No. 16, at 4. Jeffries bases this belief on “expert medical doctors, interventions, x-rays and various scans, and finally the operative report 3/29/1995.” ECF No. 19, at 2. Jeffries alleges that in March 2004, there was a recall on Stainless Steel Greenfield Vena Cava Filter with 12Fr Femoral Introducer Systems manufactured prior to March 10, 2004. ECF No. 1, at 5.

         Jeffries alleges that the IVC filter has failed to work as intended and has caused her “serious an[d] ongoing physical, emotional, and economic damages, heart issues, migration and perforations.” Id. at 2. She filed this diversity action seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages for the cost of all past current and future medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering incurred as a result of the implantation of the IVC filter. Id. at 24; ECF No. 16, at 18. The Complaint lists roughly[1] seven causes of action: (1) negligence, (2) strict liability-failure to warn; (3) strict liability-design defect; (4) strict liability-manufacturing defect; (5) breach of implied warranty of merchantability; (6) negligent misrepresentation; and (7) loss of consortium for Jeffries’ grandchildren. ECF No. 1, at 16-23.


         A federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that a court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). A district court may not rewrite a complaint in order for it to survive a motion to dismiss. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         Although afforded more leeway than represented parties, pro se litigants must still conform their filings to the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Rule 8 and Rule 11. Rule 8 requires that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, . . .; [and] (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” (emphasis added).

         Rule 11 governs pleadings, motions and other papers, as well as representations to the court and sanctions for misconduct. Notable for this case, Rule 11(b) states that an unrepresented party, by presenting a pleading to the court, “certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances . . . (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.” Failure to abide by Rule 11 can result in monetary sanctions and/or dismissal.

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court analyzes all the requirements listed above, as well as whether the “complaint . . . contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted). “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.” Id. A court must construe factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm’rs of Davidson Cnty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). Nevertheless, a court is not required to accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact or unreasonable inferences.” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Put simply, a complaint must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         I. Jeffries fails to assert a colorable, factual basis for her claim that her IVC filter is affiliated with BSC

         Jeffries’ Complaint fails to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” id., and shall be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Jeffries’ voluminous Complaint and Responses contain entirely too much extraneous information detailing the history of the IVC recall and Jeffries’ seemingly unrelated medical issues, [2] and not enough information detailing whether her IVC filter was produced and distributed by BSC. To the extent the Court was able to tease out Jeffries’ allegations from the jumbled pages, there appears to be no good-faith basis to allege BSC produced Jeffries’ IVC filter. Jeffries alleges the filter was implanted and that BSC made a certain type of filter, but does not allege with any factual support that her filter was produced by BSC. At best, Jeffries has produced an operative report dated March 29, 1995 indicating she had an IVC filter inserted. See ECF No. 17, at 5. Nowhere on the report does it indicate what type of IVC filter was inserted or who manufactured it. Jeffries admits that she does not have the document identifying which type of IVC filter she has and that removing the filter may be the only way to determine who made it. ECF No. 16, at 5; ECF No. 19, at 4.

         This is insufficient. There is no indication that Jeffries, prior to filing her Complaint, made a “reasonable” inquiry or that her “factual contentions have evidentiary support . . . [or] will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b). Rather, it appears Jeffries simply filed her Complaint based on a hunch. Such pure speculation fails to nudge her claims “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. For this reason alone, [3] Jeffries’ Complaint must be dismissed.

         II. Jeffries’ consortium claim fails ...

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