Birney et al v. Menu Foods, Inc.

Filing 16

Renewed Unopposed MOTION to stay All Proceedings , Renewed, by Menu Foods, Inc. (Attachments: #(1) Proposed Order)(McIntosh, Robert) Modified on 5/23/2007 (JRM)

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Birney et al v. Menu Foods, Inc. Doc. 16 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 1 of 12 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION CASE NO. 6:07-CV-803-ORL-18KRS GEORGE BIRNEY and AUDREY BIRNEY, Plaintiffs, vs. MENU FOODS, INC., et al., Defendants. ___________________________/ DEFENDANT'S RENEWED, UNOPPOSED MOTION TO STAY ALL PROCEEDINGS 1 TO THE HONORABLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE: Defendant, MENU FOODS INC., (referred to as "MENU FOODS"), move this Court to stay all proceedings in this action pending a transfer decision by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("JPML") pursuant to U.S.C. 1407 and pending a determination of class certification by the transferor court pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(d)(1). In support thereof, Defendant sets forth the following: I. INTRODUCTION Currently, there are at least sixty-seven (67) actions that seek relief for individuals who purchased allegedly contaminated pet food from Defendant. Federal courts have original jurisdiction over these state and common law based actions pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Specifically, the pending cases allege that Defendant sold {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}1 Dockets.Justia.com Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 2 of 12 contaminated pet food to the general public and individuals whose pets consumed this pet food sustained injuries and/or death. The pending cases seek to certify a class of United States' residents who purchased allegedly contaminated pet food and seek to compensate them for all damages incurred as a result of Defendant 's conduct. None of the pending cases are advanced and no discove ry has been conducted. The actions are currently pending in the Western District of Washington, Eastern District of Tennessee, Northern District of Illinois, Western District of Wisconsin, Western District of Arkansas, District of New Jersey, Northern Dis trict of Florida, Southern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida (specifically, MARIA TERESA FERRARESE v. MENU FOODS, INC., filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division, Case No. 2:07-cv-235-FTM-29DNF), District of Connecticut, Central District of California, District of Rhode Island, District of Maine, Northern District of California, District of Nevada, District of Idaho and Northern District of Ohio. A. Pending MDL Motions On March 30, 2007, three (3) separate motions for transfer and coordination or consolidation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1407 were filed by three (3) different plaintiffs. Plaintiff Shirley Sexton filed the first MDL motion, seeking to transfer her case and numerous other cases involving alleged injuries and/or death arising out of the purchase and/or consumption of pet food manufactured by Defendant to the Central District of California. Plaintiff, Christina Troiano, filed the second MDL motion, seeking transfer to the Southern District of Florida. Lastly, Plaintiffs Tom Whaley, Stacey Heller, Toinette Robinson, David Rapp, Cecily and Terrance Mitchelle, Suzanne E. Johnson, Craig R. Klemann, Audrey Kornelius, Barbara Smith, 1 All exhibits to Defendant's Motion to Stay were previously filed and renewed herein. Unless the Court directs {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}2 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 3 of 12 Michelle Suggett and Don James, filed their MDL motion to transfer the cases to the Western District of Washington. Defendant timely filed their MDL responses and are in agreement that MDL consolidation is appropriate. On April 12, 2007, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("JPML") issued a Notice of Hearing Session for May 31, 2007 to consider the MDL motions ("Collectively known as MDL 1850 - In re Pet Food Products Liability Litigation). B. Instant Case On the 11t h day of April 2007, Plaintiffs filed a products liability action in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, in and for Orange County, Florida, alleging that Plaintiff's pet sustained injuries and/or death as a result of the purchase and/or consumption of pet food manufactured by Defendant. Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1441 and now respectfully request this Court to stay all proceedings pending a transfer decision by the JPML and a determination of class certification by the transferor court. II. SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT A stay of all proceedings in this action pending a transfer decision by the JPML and a determination of class certification by the transferor court is necessary to promote judicial economy and avoid undue prejudice to the parties. Due to the pending MDL motions and pending motions for cla ss certification, a stay of proceedings in this case is necessary and appropriate to further the interests of judicial economy. This Court should not unnecessarily use its resources and time to supervise pre-trial proceedings and make rulings in a case, which may shortly be transferred to another district court and/or judge for further pre-trial proceedings. otherwise, Defendants will not re-file the exhibits due to their voluminous nature. {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}3 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 4 of 12 Additionally, since all the actions are in the beginning stages of litigation and the Judicial Panel will be hearing the MDL motions on May 31, 2007, no prejudice or inconvenience will result from entry of a stay. On the other hand, absent a stay, Defendant will be substantially prejudiced if they are required to duplicate efforts and expend significant resources defending multiple cases in jurisdictions around the country. For the reasons herein stated, Defendant respectfully moves this Court for an order staying all proceedings in this case pending a transfer decision by the JPML and a determination of class certification by the transferee court. III. ARGUMENT Numerous courts have stayed proceedings pending determinations by the MDL Panel of the appropriateness of coordination under Section 1407. See, e.g., Gonzalez, v. American Home Products, Corp., 223 F.Supp.2d 803 (S.D.Tex. 2002); U.S. Bank, Nat'l Ass'n v. Royal Indem. Co., 2002 WL 31114069 (N.D. Tex. Sept.23, 2002); Moore v. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, 236 F.Supp.2d 509, 511 (D. Md. 2002); Kohl v. American Home Prods. Corp., 78 F. Supp. 2d 885 (W.D. Ark. 1999); Republic of Venezuela v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., et. al., 1999 WL 33911677 (S.D. Fla. 1999); Rivers v. The Walt Disney Co., 980 F. Supp. 1358 (C.D. Cal. 1997); American Seafood, Inc. v. Magnolia Processing, 1992 WL 102762 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 1992); Arthur-Magna, Inc. v. Del-Val Fin Corp., 1991 WL 13725 (D. N.J. Feb. 1, 1991); Rosenfeld v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 1988 WL 49065 (S.D. N.Y. May 12, 1988); Portnoy v. Zenith Laboratories, 1987 WL 10236 (D.D.C. Apr. 21, 1987). It is "incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the cases on its docket with the economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). Guided by the "policies of justice and efficiency," this Court should exercise its {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}4 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 5 of 12 discretion to stay all further proceedings in this action pending the MDL Panel's action. Boudreaux v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 1995 WL 83788, *1 (E.D. La. Feb. 24, 1995). When considering a motion to stay, the Court typically considers three factors: (1) potential prejudice to the non-moving party; (2) hardship and inequity to the moving party if the action is not stayed; and (3) the judicial resources that would be saved by avoiding duplicative litigation if the cases are in fact consolidated. Rivers, 980 F.Supp. at 1360. In the case sub judice, each enumerated factor favors a stay. Thus, this Court should stay all proceedings pending a transfer decision by the Judicial Panel and a determination of class certification by the transferor court. A. Judicial Economy Mandates a Stay Pending a Transfer Decision by the Judicial Panel and Determination of Class Certification Considerations of judicial economy weigh heavily in favor of a stay. First, the express language of 28 U.S.C. 1407 provides that civil actions may be transferred for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings to "promote the just and efficient conduct of such actions." 28 U.S.C. 1407. Second, it is well settled that in the class action context that when similar actions are proceeding in different courts, courts may stay proceedings pending the outcome of the other case. Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 3D 1792 (2005); Knearem v. Bayer Corp, 2002 WL 1173551, 1 (D. Kan. 2002) (granted motion to stay to purported class action which was one of more than two hundred pending federal cases, nearly half of which were purported class actions). Here, a stay of proceedings pending a transfer decision by the MDL and class certification is necessary and appropriate to achieve the judicial economies that underlie 1407 and class actions. {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}5 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 6 of 12 Defendant reasonably anticipates that the Judicial Panel will grant an MDL for the following reasons. First, courts have consistently held that the Judicial Panel will transfer cases to eliminate the possibility of inconsistent class determinations. In re CertainTeed Corp. Roofing Shingle Prods Liab. Lit., 2007 WL 549356; In re Guidant Corp. Implantable Defibrillators Prods. Liab. Lit., 398 F. Supp. 2d 1371 (Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. 2005); In re Ford Motor Co. Speed Control Deactivation Switch Prods. Liab. Lit. 398 F. Supp.. 2d 1365 (Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. 2005); In re Roadway Exp. Inc. Employ. Pract. Lit., 384 F. Supp. 612 (Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. 1974). Absent a transfer of these cases to a single forum for coordinated and consolidated pretrial proceedings, there is a substantial risk of inconsistent and/or conflicting pretrial rulings on discovery and other key issues, such as class certification. Second, discovery with respect to the Defendant 's conduct in each of the actions proposed for consolidation will be substantially similar and will involve the same and/or similar documents and witnesses. Third, efficiency in the administration of justice will be served by consolidation, because one judge rather than multiple judges can supervise all pretrial proceedings and render rulings that are consistent. Fourth, based on the nationwide distribution of Defendant's pet food, many additional cases may be filed before the statute of limitations expires. Absent a stay, the Court will loses the potential efficiencies that would be gained by having pretrial issues, particularly with respect to issues of class certification, decided by a single court. In Gonzalez v. American Home Products, Corp., consumers brought a product liability action against manufacturers and distributors of phenylpropanolamine (PPA) to recover for physical injuries sustained as a result of exposure to PPA. Gonzalez, 223 F.Supp.2d at 804. In granting defendant 's motion to stay pending a decision of the MDL Panel, the Court held that {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}6 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 7 of 12 "[j]udicial economy and consistency of result dictate that this key issue be decided once, not countless times." Gonzales, 223 F.Supp.2d at 805. Like Gonzalez, the interests of judicial economy and consistency warrant a stay here. Without a stay, this Court will be required to expend its time and resources familiarizing itself with the intricacies and complexities of this complicated products liability litigation that may be transferred to another court. Alternatively, if the Judicial Panel assigns the case to this Court, each ruling and action taken by this Court may effect other cases without giving the attorney handling those cases an opportunity to provide input to the Court. Clearly, if these cases are not stayed, many issues particularly with respect to class certification, will have to be revisited by the Court assigned to the cases by the Judicial Panel. Thus, the continuation of this case will result in duplicative and unnecessary efforts by this Court and the parties if this action proceeds forward before the Judicial Panel has an opportunity to rule. Additionally, if a stay is not granted and this case proceeds forward, the Court's rulings potentially could be reconsidered after coordination. "The pretrial powers of the transferee court include the powers to modify, expand, or vacate earlier discovery orders." In re Plumbing Fixture Cases, 298 F. Supp. 484, 489 (J.P.M.L. 1968). In Kohl v. American Home Prods. Corp., a consumer brought a products liability action against manufacturers, distributors and sellers of the pharmaceutical drugs, fenfluramine and phentermine, to recover for injuries allegedly caused by the drugs. Kohl, 78 F. Supp. 2d at 887. In granting defendant 's motion to stay pending the transfer of the case to the MDL Panel, the Court held that judicial economy would be best served if litigation was facilitated in the appropriate forum. Kohl, 78 F. Supp. 2d at 888. "If the MDL {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}7 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 8 of 12 motion is granted, all of the Court's time, energy and acquired knowledge regarding the action and its pretrial procedures will be wasted." U.S. Bank, 2002 WL 31114069 at *2. This Court, like the district court in Kohl, should not expend its limited resources "familiarizing itself with the intricacies of a case that would be heard [for pre-trial purposes] by another judge." Rivers, 980 F. Supp. at 1360. Moreover, this Court should abstain from scheduling additional status conferences and/or issuing additional discovery orders because "any efforts on behalf of this Court concerning case management will most likely have to by replicated by the judge that is assigned to handle the consolidated litigation." Id. Furthermore, to avoid the risk of inconsistent substantive legal rulings, pretrial proceedings in this matter and other actions should proceed in an orderly, coordinated fashion, as directed by the single court selected by the Judicial Panel. Accordingly, a stay in this case is appropriate as it will further the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. B. THE BALANCE OF EQUITIES WEIGHS HEAVILY IN FAVOR OF A STAY AS PLAINTIFFS WILL SUFFER NO PREJUDICE, WHILE DEFENDANT WILL SUFFER UNDUE HARDSHIP SHOULD A STAY BE GRANTED. In addition to the waste of judicial resources inherent in proceeding with this matter prior to a ruling by the Judicial Panel, the balance of the parties' hardships strongly favors a stay. In Moore v. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a patient who took a prescription diet drug brought a products liability action against the drug manufacturer. Moore, 236 F.Supp.2d at 511. The court in that case held that the potential prejudice to the drug manufacturer warranted a stay of proceedings pending the decision of Judicial Panel for transfer and consolid ation. Id. Specifically, the court held that "[c]entralization is...necessary in order to eliminate duplicative {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}8 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 9 of 12 discovery, prevent inconsistent or repetitive pretrial rulings...and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary." Id. Defendant in the present action would be substantially prejudiced by duplicative discovery and motion practice if a stay is not put in place. American Seafood, 1992 WL 102762 at *2 (holding that "[t]he duplicative motion practice and discovery proceedings demonstrate that judicial economy and prejudice to the defendants weigh heavily in favor of a stay"). Without a stay, Defendant may continue to be served with discovery requests, deposition notices and various motions resulting in duplicative and costly responses and replies being prepared multiple times in different jurisdictions. This burden is a clear, definable hardship weighing in favor of staying this action until the MDL Panel renders its decision. A stay will not, however, unduly prejudice the Plaintiffs in this matter. In Republic of Venezuela v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., et. al., The Republic of Venezuela sought damages from the defendants due to, inter alia, costs allegedly incurred as a result of paying for "medical care, facilities, and services" for Venezuelan residents injured as a result of the use of tobacco. Republic of Venezuela 1999 WL 33911677, *1. The Court in granting Defendant's motion to stay held that "upon consideration of what effect a brief stay may have on [Pla intiff], the Court finds that Plaintiff will not be prejudiced by the granting of a stay pending the JPML's decision." Id. Here, there has been no discovery in the case at bar or any of the pending actions. Since all the actions are in the beginning stages of litigation, no prejudice or inconvenience will result from transfer, coordination and/or consolidation. Any slight delay that Plaintiffs may experience in this case will be minimal and the prejudice to Defendant would far outstrip any harm to {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}9 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 10 of 12 Plaintiff. See Arthur-Magna, 1991 WL 13725 at *1 (noting that even if a temporary stay can be characterized as a delay prejudicial to plaintiffs, there are considerations of judicial economy and hardship to defendants that are compelling enough to warrant suc h a delay). Indeed, if the Judicial Panel consolidates the cases into an MDL, all of the parties - including the Plaintiffs here - will benefit through increased efficiency and coordinated pretrial case management. Further, Defendant is not asking this Court to stay the proceedings indefinitely. The Judicial Panel will be hearing the MDL motions on May 31, 2007. Defendant is only asking the Court to issue a stay while the transfer decision by the Judicial Panel and determination of class certification is pending. As such, any potential delay is outweighed by the potential efficiencies available in a coordinated MDL proceeding. Therefore, the benefits of staying this proceeding far outweigh any minimal inconvenience to the Plaintiff. Thus, the granting of a stay is necessary and appropriate. IV. CONCLUSION For all of the foregoing reasons, it is appropriate for this Court to exercise its sound discretion to stay these proceedings pending the decision of the Judicial Panel and a determination of class certification by the transferor court. A stay would further the interests of judicial economy, and promote just and efficient conduct of this litigation, while denying a stay would unnecessarily waste the efforts and resources of this Court and all parties. Without the stay, Defendant will suffer undue hardship and inequity, and the purpose for coordination and consolidation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1407 will be undermined. WHEREFORE, Defendant respectfully request this Honorable Court enter an Order staying further proceedings, including but not limited to Defendant 's obligation to file responsive {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}10 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 11 of 12 pleadings, in this matter pending the transfer decision by the Judicial Panel and a determination of class certification by the transferor court. Dated: May 22, 2007 Respectfully submitted, By: /s/ Robert D. McIntosh Robert D. McIntosh (FBN: 115490) Email: rdm@adorno.com ADORNO & YOSS LLP 888 S.E. 3rd Avenue, Suite 500 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316-1159 Phone: (954) 523-5885 Fax: (954) 760-9531 Attorneys for Defendant, MENU FOODS, INC. LOCAL RULE 3.01(g) CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Local Rule 3.01(g), I certify that I have conferred with opposing counsel, Luis G. Figueroa, who has no opposition to the relief requested in this Motion. By: /s/ Robert D. McIntosh Robert D. McIntosh (FBN: 115490) CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on May 22, 2007, I electronically filed the foregoing document with the Clerk of the Court using CM/ECF. I also certify that the foregoing document is being served this day on all counsel of record or pro se parties identified on the attached Service List in the manner specified, either via transmission of Notices of Electronic Filing generated by CM/ECF or in some other authorized manner for those counsel or parties who are not authorized to receive electronically Notices of Electronic Filing. By: /s/ Robert D. McIntosh Robert D. McIntosh (FBN: 115490) {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}11 Case 6:07-cv-00803-ACC-KRS Document 16 Filed 05/22/2007 Page 12 of 12 BIRNEY v. MENU FOODS SERVICE LIST 6:07-CV-803-ORL-18KRS Luis G. Figueroa, Esq. Martinez, Manglardi, Diez-Arguelles & Tejedor Attorneys Trial Group 540 N. Semoran Boulevard Orlando, Florida 32807 P: 407-381-4123 lfigueroa@attorneystrialgroup.com Attorneys for Plaintiffs ___________________________________________________________________________ Robert D. McIntosh, Esq. Adorno & Yoss, LLP 888 Southeast 3rd Avenue, Suite 500 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316 P: 954-523-5885 rdm@adorno.com Attorneys for Defendant, Menu Foods, Inc. {RDM/013804.0109/L4124507_1}12

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