United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
A. TRAUGER, United States District Judge.
before the court is an unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment
(Docket No. 56) filed by one of the defendants,
L'Oréal USA, Inc.
(“L'Oréal”). For the reasons discussed
herein, L'Oréal's motion will be granted.
& PROCEDURAL HISTORY
a products liability case in which the plaintiff, Seketha
Sanford, alleges that L'Oréal “manufactured,
sold or distributed an unreasonably dangerous product known
as Wave Nouveau.” (Docket No. 1-1 ¶ 13.) According
to allegations in the Complaint, Ms. Sanford visited
SmartStyle, a hair salon in Nashville, Tennessee, in October
of 2014 and allowed stylists at the salon to use
L'Oréal's Wave Nouveau product on her hair.
(Id. ¶ 9.) Immediately after the product was
applied to her hair, however, Ms. Sanford alleges that she
began to experience severe and rapid hair loss, which has
required her to “receive periodic injections and use
medication on her scalp daily.” (Id.
¶¶ 10-12, 18.) Ms. Sanford has brought a claim for
negligence against L'Oréal, and L'Oréal
has filed the pending motion seeking dismissal of the claim
on the grounds that Ms. Sanford cannot demonstrate that Wave
Nouveau products were the cause of her hair loss. (Docket No.
57, pp. 11-13.)
support of its motion, L'Oréal has submitted the
Declaration of Alan S. Boyd, M.D., a professor in the
Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology and Pathology
and Laboratory Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical
Center. (Docket No. 59 (Decl. A. Boyd) ¶ 2.) According
to Dr. Boyd, a biopsy of Ms. Sanford's scalp was taken
and submitted for histologic evaluation on July 14, 2016.
(Id. ¶ 5.) The results revealed that Ms.
Sanford had experienced miniaturization of her hair
follicles, which is consistent with androgenetic alopecia but
not with the use of cosmetic products. (Id.) Dr.
Boyd further notes that, in cases in which cosmetic products
cause hair damage or loss, they also typically result in
burning, inflammation, and scarring on the scalp, and the
resulting hair loss tends to be temporary and immediate.
(Id. ¶ 6.) Ms. Sanford, however, has not
complained of burning, inflammation, or scarring; nor has she
complained of temporary hair loss. (Id.) Rather, Dr.
Boyd notes, Ms. Sanford has experienced a gradual and
persistent hair loss that occurred over the course of two
years, a pattern that is not consistent with hair loss caused
by cosmetic products. (Id.) After acknowledging that
“[t]he precise cause of [Ms.] Sanford's hair loss
is not entirely clear, ” Dr. Boyd opines that the loss
is likely due to some form of alopecia. (Id. ¶
7.) “Regardless of the cause, ” Dr. Boyd
concludes, “application of the Wave Nouveau products to
[Ms.] Sanford's hair did not cause her to experience hair
Sanford has not filed any response to the pending motion, nor
has she disclosed any expert witness that will offer an
opinion about the medical cause of her alleged injuries or
rebut the opinion of Dr. Boyd.
Sixth Circuit, a plaintiff who fails to address a claim in
response to a motion for summary judgment is deemed to have
abandoned the claim. Briggs v. Univ. of
Detroit-Mercy, 611 F. App'x 865, 870 (6th Cir.
2015). Nonetheless, a district court may not use a
party's failure to respond as a reason for granting
summary judgment “without first examining all the
materials properly before it under Rule 56(c).”
Id. (quoting F.T.C. v. E.M.A. Nationwide,
Inc., 767 F.3d 611, 630 (6th Cir. 2014)). This rule
exists because “[a] party is never required to respond
to a motion for summary judgment in order to prevail since
the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a material
factual dispute always rests with the movant.”
F.T.C., 767 F.3d at 630 (quoting Smith v.
Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 64 (6th Cir. 1979). Thus,
“even where a motion for summary judgment is unopposed
(in whole or in part), a district court must review carefully
the portions of the record submitted by the moving party to
determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact
exists.” Briggs, 611 F. App'x at 871.
Tennessee, product liability claims - such as that advanced
against L'Oréal by Ms. Sanford - are governed by
the Tennessee Products Liability Act (“TPLA”),
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-101 et seq., which
A manufacturer or seller of a product shall not be liable for
any injury to a person or property caused by the product
unless the product is determined to be in a defective
condition or unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the
control of the manufacturer or seller.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-105(a). As L'Oréal
correctly notes, causation is an essential element of a
product liability claim under the TPLA. Nye v. Bayer
Cropscience, Inc., 347 S.W.3d 686, 704-05 (Tenn. 2011).
The mere fact that the plaintiff sustained an injury is not
proof of a defect in, or dangerous condition of, the product.
King v. Danek Med., Inc., 37 S.W.3d 429, 435 (Tenn.
Ct. App. 2000). Rather, the plaintiff must demonstrate
‘that there was something wrong with the product . . .
and trace [her] injury to the specific defect.”
Id. (citing Whaley v. Rheem Mfg. Co., 900
S.W.2d 296, 299 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995); Fulton v. Pfizer
Hosp. Prods. Grp. Inc., 872 S.W.2d 908, 912 (Tenn. Ct.
App. 1993).) Moreover, in cases involving claims of medical
injury, Tennessee courts generally require proof of causation
in the form of testimony from a medical expert. See,
e.g., Thomas v. Aetna Life & Cas. Co., 812
S.W.2d 278, 283 (Tenn. 1991) (“Medical causation and
permanency of an injury must be established in most cases by
expert medical testimony.”); Tomazin v. Lincare,
Inc., No. 3:13-cv-0875, 2015 WL 4545658, at *12 (M.D.
Tenn. July 27, 2015) (collecting cases and noting that,
“under Tennessee law, medical causation must be
established by expert testimony”).
Sanford has alleged that her use of the Wave Nouveau products
caused her hair loss, but she has failed to present any
evidence supporting causation or disclose any expert who
could opine on the medical cause of her hair loss. Moreover,
the court's review of all of the materials before it
reveals no evidence relating to the cause of Ms. Sanford hair
loss other than the declaration of Dr. Boyd, who opines that
the application of Wave Nouveau products to Ms. Sanford's
hair could not have been the cause of her alleged injury.
Upon review of Dr. Boyd's opinion, and taking into
consideration the fact that Ms. Sanford has failed to submit
any testimony from a medical expert to rebut that opinion,
the court is convinced that there exists no material ...