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Wahl v. General Electric Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 22, 2015

MARYE WAHL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY; GE HEALTHCARE; GE HEALTHCARE AS; GE HEALTHCARE INC., Defendants-Appellees

Argued August 1, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:13-cv-00329--Aleta Arthur Trauger, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Kenneth J. Brennan, TORHOERMAN LAW, LLC, Collinsville, Illinois, for Appellant.

Dwight E. Tarwater, PAINE, TARWATER, BICKERS, LLP, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Kenneth J. Brennan, TORHOERMAN LAW, LLC, Collinsville, Illinois, for Appellant.

Dwight E. Tarwater, Taylor A. Williams, PAINE, TARWATER, BICKERS, LLP, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS and DONALD, Circuit Judges; and HOOD, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 492

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Marye Wahl appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant-Appellee General Electric (GE) in her personal-injury action arising out of the development of a rare and serious disease following the administration of one of GE's drugs. The district court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment based on Tennessee's statute of repose. For the reasons below, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

I

Defendant-Appellee General Electric manufactures Omniscan, a gadolinium-based contrast agent approved by the FDA. The administration of Omniscan has

Page 493

been associated in some patients with the development of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). NSF, " a progressive fibrotic disease affecting the tissues and organs with no known cure," In re Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents Products Liab. Litig., MDL No. 1909, 2010 WL 1796334, at *1 (N.D. Ohio May 4, 2010), op. mod. on reconsideration, 2010 WL 5173568 (N.D. Ohio June 18, 2010), is a rare and deadly condition that leads to the hardening (fibrosis) of the kidneys and is usually seen in patients with severe kidney disease following exposure to gadolinium.

Omniscan was administered to Wahl for two MRIs she received in Nashville, Tennessee, in May and November 2006. In May 2007, about one year after Wahl's first administration of Omniscan, she displayed the first symptoms of NSF. She was officially diagnosed with NSF in October 2010.

Wahl is a resident of and was treated and diagnosed in Tennessee. However, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all pre-trial litigation of Omniscan-related cases in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In re: Gadolinium Contrast Dyes Prods. Liab. Litig., 536 F.Supp.2d 1380, 1382 (J.P.M.L. 2008) (MDL 1909). Although plaintiffs usually file complaints destined for an MDL-designated district in their home district and allow the judge to transfer their case for pre-trial litigation, this MDL panel issued a " Direct Filing Order" that permitted plaintiffs to avoid the seemingly inefficient step of filing-and-transfer required in the absence of such an order. Accordingly, in May 2011, Wahl filed a complaint in the Northern District of Ohio alleging injury from the administration of Omniscan to her. With the agreement of both Wahl and GE, the MDL judge in Ohio transferred the case almost two years later, in April 2013, to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, " the district court of proper venue."

Shortly after the transfer to the Middle District of Tennessee, GE moved for summary judgment, arguing that, since Wahl received her MRIs in 2006, and since all Omniscan doses produced from 2004 to 2006 were marked with expiration dates two years after manufacture, the Omniscan administered to her must have expired no later than 2008. GE further argued that the Tennessee Products Liability Act's (TPLA) statute of repose, which requires all suits to be instituted within one year of the expiration date appearing on a product's packaging, barred Wahl's suit because all of her claims expired, at the latest, on November 1, 2009--almost two years before she filed her complaint. Wahl argued that, for choice-of-law reasons, the Tennessee statute did not apply. The district court granted GE's motion. In its opinion, it applied Tennessee choice-of-law rules, which required the application of Tennessee substantive law, including the statute of repose. Wahl timely appealed.

II

We review the district court's determination regarding choice of law de novo. See Salve Regina Coll. v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 231, 111 S.Ct. 1217, 113 L.Ed.2d 190 (1991); Charash v. Oberlin Coll., 14 F.3d 291, 296 (6th Cir. 1994).

We also review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. See Rannals v. Diamond Jo Casino, 265 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2001). Summary judgment should be awarded only when " there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view

Page 494

all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, ...


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