Johnson v. Kraft Foods et al

Filing 25

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 23 ) may proceed. Clerk of Court shall file the Amended Complaint (Previously filed by clerk on 10/27/2017; ECF No. 23 .) Clerk shall issue summons to Defendants named in the complaint and deliver the summons to the USM for service. Henceforth, Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendants or their attorney a copy of every document submitted for consideration by the court. Signed by Magistrate Judge George Foley, Jr on 10/31/2017. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM) Modified on 10/31/2017 to reflect USM-285 forms mailed to P 11/1/2017 (DRM).

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 5 6 7 8 9 10 LAUSTEVEION JOHNSON, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) ) KRAFT FOODS dba MAXWELL HOUSE, et al., ) ) Defendants. ) __________________________________________) Case No. 2:16-cv-00042-MMD-GWF ORDER 11 12 This matter comes before the Court on the Screening of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint 13 (ECF No. 23), filed on October 27, 2017. Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status on 14 October 2, 2017. See Screening Order (ECF No. 22). 15 BACKGROUND 16 Plaintiff brings this “tort action” and alleges that Defendants violated his civil rights 17 because they were negligent in failing to place warning labels on their coffee products, which 18 contain caffeine. Plaintiff asserts that due to Defendants’ negligence, he now suffers from 19 insomnia, hypertension, kidney and liver damage, migraines, mild heart murmurs, mild heart 20 attacks, constant anxiety and fear of death, tooth decay, painful withdrawals and a life-long addition 21 to Defendants’ products. Had Defendants placed warning labels on their products, Plaintiff 22 contends that he would have been able to make an informed decision on whether or how much 23 coffee to consume. Plaintiff now seeks punitive and compensatory damages. 24 25 DISCUSSION I. Screening the Amended Complaint 26 Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks 27 redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. 28 § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims 1 that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek 2 monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 3 1915A(b)(1),(2). 4 In addition to the screening requirements under § 1915A, pursuant to the PLRA, a federal 5 court must dismiss a prisoner’s claims, “if the allegation of poverty is untrue,” or if the action “is 6 frivolous or malicious,” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted,” or “seeks monetary 7 relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Dismissal of 8 a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is provided for in Federal 9 Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the Court applies the same standard under Section 1915(e)(2) 10 11 when reviewing the adequacy of a complaint or amended complaint. Review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See 12 Chappel v. Laboratory Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). Dismissal for failure 13 to state a claim is proper only if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support 14 of the claim that would entitle him or her to relief. See Morley v. Walker, 175 F.3d 756, 759 (9th 15 Cir. 1999). In making this determination, the Court takes as true all allegations of material fact 16 stated in the complaint, and the Court construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 17 See Warshaw v. Xoma Corp., 74 F.3d 955, 957 (9th Cir. 1996). Allegations in a pro se complaint 18 are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Hughes v. Rowe, 19 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (per curiam). While the 20 standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not require detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide 21 more than mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964- 22 1965 (2007). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is insufficient. Id., See 23 Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). 24 All or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may therefore be dismissed sua sponte if the 25 prisoner’s claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal 26 conclusions that are untenable (e.g. claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims 27 of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful 28 factual allegations (e.g. fantastic or delusional scenarios). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 2 1 327-28 (1989); see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). 2 II. Instant Complaint 3 A. 4 In Nevada, when bringing a strict product liability failure-to-warn case, the plaintiff carries Plaintiff’s Claims Under a Theory of Negligence/Products Liability 5 the burden of proving, in part, that the inadequate warning caused his injuries. Sims v. General 6 Telephone & Electronics, 107 Nev. 516, 524, 815 P.2d 151, 156 (1991), overruled on other 7 grounds by Tucker v. Action Equip. and Scaffold Co., 113 Nev. 1349, 1356 n. 4, 951 P.2d 1027, 8 1031 n. 4 (1997), overruled on other grounds by Richards v. Republic Silver State Disposal, 122 9 Nev. 1213, 148 P.3d 684 (2006). To successfully prove a failure-to-warn case, a plaintiff must 10 produce evidence demonstrating the same elements as in other strict product liability cases: “(1) the 11 product had a defect which rendered it unreasonably dangerous, (2) the defect existed at the time 12 the product left the manufacturer, and (3) the defect caused the plaintiff's injury.” See Fyssakis v. 13 Knight Equipment Corp., 108 Nev. 212, 214, 826 P.2d 570, 571 (1992). A product may be found 14 unreasonably dangerous and defective if the manufacturer failed to provide an adequate warning. 15 See Yamaha Motor Co. v. Arnoult, 114 Nev. 233, 238–39, 955 P.2d 661, 665 (1998). Further, the 16 burden of proving causation can be satisfied in failure-to-warn cases by demonstrating that a 17 different warning would have altered the way the plaintiff used the product or would have 18 “prompted plaintiff to take precautions to avoid the injury.” See Riley v. American Honda Motor 19 Co., Inc., 259 Mont. 128, 856 P.2d 196, 198 (1993). Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ products 20 contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that affects the heart and nervous system. Because of this, 21 Plaintiff believes that the products are a “drug” that warrants warning labels. Defendants allegedly 22 failed to provide warning labels, and Plaintiff argues that had Defendants’ products been 23 adequately labeled he would not have consumed as much coffee and suffered the alleged injuries. 24 Taking the allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint as true, Plaintiff has arguably stated a claim against 25 Defendants based on products liability. 26 To state a claim for negligence in Nevada, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) that defendant 27 owed him a duty of care; (2) that defendant breached this duty of care; (3) that the breach was the 28 legal cause of plaintiff's injury; and (4) that the complainant suffered damages. See Hammerstein v. 3 1 Jean Dev. W., 907 P.2d 975, 977 (Nev.1995); see also Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp., 109 Nev. 2 1096, 1100, 864 P.2d 796, 798 (1993). Plaintiff argues that Defendants had a duty to warn 3 consumers about the harmful effects of their products. He asserts that Defendants allegedly 4 breached this duty and that breach was the cause of Plaintiff’s injuries, which resulted in damages. 5 Therefore, Plaintiff has pled the elements of a negligence claim and the Court will allow his 6 amended complaint to proceed. 7 The Court recognizes that the allegations in Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are borderline 8 frivolous but is unable to make that a conclusive determination so as to preclude this case from 9 proceeding at this time. 10 Accordingly, 11 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint may proceed. 12 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall file the Amended Complaint 13 (ECF No. 23). 14 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall issue summons to 15 Defendants named in the complaint and deliver the summons to the U.S. Marshal for service. The 16 Clerk of the Court shall send the required USM-285 forms to Plaintiff. Plaintiff shall have twenty 17 (20) days to furnish the required USM-285 forms to the U.S. Marshal at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. 18 South, Suite 2058, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101. After Plaintiff receives copies of the completed 19 USM-285 forms from the U.S. Marshal, he has twenty (20) days to file a notice with the court 20 identifying if Defendants were served. If Plaintiff wishes to have the U.S. Marshal attempt service 21 again on any unserved defendant, then a motion must be filed with the court identifying the 22 unserved defendant, specifying a more detailed name and address and indicating whether some 23 other manner of service should be used. Pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil 24 Procedure, service must be accomplished within one hundred twenty (120) days from the date that 25 the complaint was filed. 26 ... 27 ... 28 ... 4 1 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that henceforth, Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendants, or 2 their attorney if they have retained one, a copy of every pleading, motion, or other document 3 submitted for consideration by the court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper submitted 4 for filing a certificate stating the date that a true and correct copy of the document was mailed to 5 Defendants or their counsel. The Court may disregard any paper received by a district judge, 6 magistrate judge, or the Clerk which fails to include a certificate of service. 7 DATED this 31st day of October, 2017. 8 9 10 GEORGE FOLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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