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Jeffries v. Boston Scientific Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 20, 2017

MONICA JEFFRIES, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSTON SCIENTIFIC CORPORATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGER W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 16, 2015, Plaintiff Monica Jeffries, proceeding pro se, filed this product liability action, alleging that she had been harmed by a Greenfield Inferior Vena Cava (“IVC”) Filter “designed, manufactured, prepared, compounded, assembling [sic], processed, labeled, marketed, distributed, and sold by” the Defendants Boston Scientific et al. and Boston Scientific/Ray Elliott CEO (collectively, “BSC”). ECF No. 1. On December 2, 2015, this Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 3. On August 10, 2016, this Court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, but allowed Jeffries thirty days in which to file an Amended Complaint addressing the numerous deficiencies outlined by the Court in its memorandum opinion. ECF Nos. 21, 22.

         On September 8, 2016, Jeffries filed an Amended Complaint and requested an emergency hearing. ECF No. 23. On September 26, 2016, BSC filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 25. Jeffries filed a Response in Opposition to BSC's Motion to Dismiss on October 5, 2016, ECF No. 27, and filed an additional supporting memorandum on October 11, 2016, ECF No. 28. On October 25, 2016, Jeffries filed a “Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint Adding Southern Maryland Hospital A.K.A. Medstar Request [sic] for Emergency Hearing to Remove Greenfield IVC Filter At Defendant Boston Scientifics Exspence [sic] As Soon As Possible Time [sic] Is of the Essence.” ECF No. 32. On November 16, 2016, Jeffries filed another Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint [ECF Nos. 36, 37], attaching medical records that for the first time indicated that she may have been implanted with a Greenfield IVC filter manufactured by BSC [ECF No. 37 Ex. A]. In the interest of fairness to a pro se litigant, on December 21, 2016, this Court granted Jeffries leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, along with all medical records and attachments previously submitted as well as a redline version identifying any additions or deletions in accordance with Local Rule 103.6(c). ECF No. 39. On January 17, 2017, because Jeffries had not yet filed a Second Amended Complaint, BSC filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint with Prejudice [ECF No. 40] for reasons stated in its previously submitted Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 25]. On February 2, 2017, Jeffries filed an Objection to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 42] and another Motion to Amend Complaint and Request to Shield Plaintiffs [sic] Medical Records from Public Eye [ECF No. 43], attaching a redline version of her Second Amended Complaint and supporting medical records. On February 15, 2017, Defendant filed a Response in Opposition to Jeffries' Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [ECF No. 44], arguing that her proposed Second Amended Complaint did not address the deficiencies previously identified by the Court and did not allege plausible causes of action, so amendment would be futile. The issues have been briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6.

         Because this Court has already granted Jeffries leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, her Motion to Amend Complaint and Request to Shield Plaintiffs Medical Records from Public Eye [ECF No. 43] will be granted, and Defendant's pending motions to dismiss [ECF Nos. 25, 40] will be denied as moot. However, Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, see ECF No. 3, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(ii), in cases in which the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the court “shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that. . .the action or appeal. . .fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” Because this Court determines that Jeffries' Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 43-2] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, her Second Amended Complaint will be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts underlying Jeffries' claims are laid out in this Court's August 10, 2016, Memorandum Opinion. ECF No. 21. In that opinion, this Court identified a number of problems with Jeffries' original Complaint.

         First, Jeffries' Complaint failed to provide a colorable, factual basis for the claim that BSC manufactured the IVC Filter that she alleged had been implanted in her. Id. at 4. This alone was sufficient to dismiss her Complaint. Id. at 5.

         Second, Jeffries' claim for punitive damages did nothing more than recite the “actual malice” standard, without providing any factual allegations that would demonstrate actual malice. Id. at 6.

         Third, while the statute of limitations for products liability claims in Maryland is three years, Jeffries waited roughly twenty years after implementation of her device to file a Complaint. Id. at 6-7. She claimed that the statute of limitations should be tolled until September 2015, when she first discovered that her IVC filter had migrated and perforated her vena cava, but also asserted that BSC publicized a recall of its Greenfield IVC Filter in 2005. Id. at 7. She did not provide any reason why she should not have known about the dangers of the filter in 2005 when BSC publicized its recall, and thus had not adequately alleged that her claim was timely. Id.

         In the “interest of fairness to a pro se litigant, ” this Court granted Jeffries leave to file an Amended Complaint. The Court directed Jeffries to ensure that the Amended Complaint complied with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and included only “‘short and plain statements of jurisdiction' and facts asserted in good-faith.” ECF No. 21 at 8 (quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 8, 11). After Jeffries submitted documentation indicating that her filter may have been manufactured by BSC, this Court again granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, and directed that the Second Amended Complaint “specifically address[] the deficiencies outlined by the Court in its previous Memorandum Opinion, and adequately allege[] a plausible claim that the IVC filter is, in fact, the cause of the injuries alleged by her.” ECF No. 39 at 2.

         DISCUSSION

         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).

         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 considers 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) (internal citation and quotation marks 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 Stated a Plausible Claim that Her IVC Filter ...


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