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Clabo v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

January 6, 2020

LESLIE CLABO, Plaintiff,

          Debra C. Poplin, Magistrate Judge



         Defendants have filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's order granting Plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint, contending Plaintiff's motion should be denied and their motion for summary judgment should be granted. (Doc. 56.) For the reasons set out below the Court will REVERSE the Magistrate Judge's order, will DENY Plaintiff's motion to amend, and will GRANT Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arose following alleged complications from Plaintiff's transvaginal mesh device. Plaintiff was prescribed a TVT mesh sling to address incontinence issues, and the device (“Kit Device TVT w. Abd. Guide Catalog #610041A, Lot No. JCG03072 or (JOG03072), Item No. 70675”) was implanted on May 8, 2003. (Doc. 1-1 at 7; Doc. 12 at 6.) Beginning about 2006, Plaintiff began experiencing problems allegedly caused by the mesh sling, including pelvic pain and infections. (Doc. 1-1 at 7.) On July 27, 2011, Plaintiff underwent surgeries to remove parts of the sling that had perforated tissue in her vaginal walls. (Id.) The remaining mesh reportedly continues to perforate tissue and cause Plaintiff significant pain. (Id.) On July 27, 2012, Plaintiff was advised by a doctor that her continuing medical problems were likely due to a defective transvaginal mesh product. (Id.)

         On May 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants as the manufacturers and sellers of the TVT mesh sling. (Id. at 6.) Defendants removed the case from state court to this Court, and it was then transferred to a pending multidistrict litigation (the “MDL”). (Docs. 1, 8.) While part of the MDL, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the applicable statute of repose. (Doc. 31.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition, [1]asserting summary judgment should be denied because questions of fact remain as to when she should have known the cause of her injuries. (Doc. 36.) Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 37), and Plaintiff's second response (Doc. 49) was stricken for violating Local Rule 7.1(d). (See Doc. 65.)

         On October 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend her complaint. (Doc. 33.) Plaintiff sought to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, add Johnson & Johnson as a defendant, and adopt the claims pleaded in the MDL's Master Complaint. (Id.) Defendants filed a response in opposition, contending the amendment was futile due to the application of the statute of repose and prejudicial because of the motion's untimeliness and the amendment's effect on their summary judgment motion. (Doc. 35.)

         After the case was transferred back to this Court (Doc. 44), Magistrate Judge Debra C. Poplin held a telephonic hearing on Plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint (Doc. 54). In granting the motion to amend, the Magistrate Judge left the decision as to the amendment's futility for this Court to decide. (Doc. 55 at 3.) As for the claim of prejudice, the Magistrate Judge stated the filing of an amended complaint does not necessarily moot a motion for summary judgment, and even if it does, new deadlines can be set for filing dispositive motions. (Id.) In their objection to the Magistrate Judge's order, Defendants contend the Magistrate Judge applied the incorrect standard in evaluating the futility of the amendment and failed to fully consider the prejudicial nature of Plaintiff's amendment. (Doc. 56.) Plaintiff did not file a response to the objection and the time to do so has expired.


         A. Objection to Magistrate Judge's Order

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), a district court must modify or set aside a Magistrate Judge's non-dispositive pretrial order if it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). “This standard requires the District Court to review findings of fact for clear error and to review matters of law de novo.” Bisig v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., 940 F.3d 205, 219 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting EEOC v. City of Long Branch, 866 F.3d 93, 99 (3d Cir. 2017)).

         A finding of fact is “clearly erroneous” when the reviewing court is “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Hagaman v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 958 F.2d 684, 690 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 398 (1948)) (internal quotations omitted). A district court may not reverse the Magistrate Judge's factual findings merely because it would have decided the matter differently, rather “the test is whether there is evidence in the record to support the lower court's finding, and whether its construction of that evidence is a reasonable one.” Heights Cmty. Cong. v. Hilltop Realty, Inc., 774 F.2d 135, 140 (6th Cir. 1985). Under the “contrary to law” standard, the Court “may overturn any conclusions of law which contradict or ignore applicable precepts of law, as found in the Constitution, statutes, or case precedent.” Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992).

         B. Motion to Amend

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a party may amend its pleading before trial with the court's leave, which “[t]he court should freely give . . . when justice so requires.” The court's discretion is “limited by Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)'s liberal policy of permitting amendments to ensure the determination of claims on their merits.” Gen. Elec. Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1130 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Marks v. Shell Oil Co., 830 F.2d 68, 69 (6th Cir. 1987)). In evaluating whether to grant leave to amend, a court considers “undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment . . . .” Hageman v. Signal L.P. Gas, Inc., 486 F.2d 479, 484 (6th Cir. ...

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