United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
HOLLY LYNN JONES, Individually, and HOLLY LYNN JONES, as Next Friend of ECJ, a Minor, Plaintiffs,
WFM-WO, INC., D/B/A WHOLE FOODS MARKET, Defendant.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court in this removed action is Defendant WFM-Wo,
Inc. d/b/a Whole Foods Market's (“Whole
Foods”) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5), to which
Plaintiff Holly Lynn Jones on behalf of herself and her minor
child ECJ have filed a response (Doc. No. 13) and Whole Foods
has replied (Doc. No. 14). For the reasons that follow, the
Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.
Complaint, originally filed in the Davidson County Circuit
Court, alleges the following facts:
March 18, 2016, Jones went to the Whole Foods Market grocery
store on Hillsboro Pike and purchased two slices of
“Vegan Garden Pizza” for ECJ, her daughter. ECJ
has a “severe nut allergy, including a severe allergy
to pecans.” (Doc. No. 1-1 Comp. ¶ XI). After
eating the pizza slices, ECJ “suffered a severe
allergic reaction, resulting in serious and life-threatening
injuries” that required hospitalization. (Id.
¶¶ XV, XVI).
pizza was located in Whole Foods' bakery department,
where each pizza “was accompanied by specific
label/signage identifying each variety of pizza by name and
further specifying each variety of pizza's list of
ingredients.” (Id. ¶ IX). Jones had
purchased the Vegan Garden Pizza in the past for consumption
off-site, “specifically relying upon the label/signage
accompanying the same, which specified its contained
ingredients - namely that it did not contain certain nuts
and/or ingredients derived from nut products.”
(Id. ¶ XII).
ECJ suffered the allergic reaction, Jones contacted the
“manager of the prepared food department, ” who
stated that the “Vegan Garden Pizza” had been
improperly labeled on the day in question and that it
“did, in fact, contain nuts and/or ingredients derived
from nuts.” (Id. ¶ XVI). The manager also
stated that this occurred because an employee used a taco
sauce from the burrito bar that contained “crushed
pecans, ” and that “no labels and/or signage were
utilized in warning patrons that the ‘Vegan Garden
Pizza' contained ‘crushed pecans, ' nuts and/or
ingredients derived from nuts.” (Id.).
upon the foregoing allegations, Jones filed suit alleging
negligence, negligent supervision, product liability,
misbranding of food for consumption, and breach of express
warranty. Whole Foods moves to dismiss all claims.
Standard of Review
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court “construe[s] the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, accept[s] its allegations as
true, and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff.” Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d
471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007); Inge v. Rock Fin. Corp.,
281 F.3d 613, 619 (6th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff need only
provide “a short and plain statement of the claim that
will give the defendant fair notice of what the
plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,
” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957),
and the Court must determine only whether “the claimant
is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims, ”
not whether the plaintiff can ultimately prove the facts
alleged. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
511 (2002) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232
(1974)). Nevertheless, the allegations “must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,
” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007), and must contain “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, 678-79 (2009). In
short, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim
for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id.
at 679; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Application of Law
Foods moves to dismiss based upon the following arguments:
1. The vegan pizza was not in a defective or unreasonably
dangerous condition as is required to state a products
liability claim under Tennessee law because nuts such as
pecans are a common, well-known, and essential ingredient in
2. Whole Foods was not required to warn of the presence of
pecans in the vegan pizza under the applicable federal law,
which expressly preempts any state law to the contrary,