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Reece v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

November 24, 2014

HOMER LEE REECE, and NELDA REECE, Plaintiffs,
v.
INTUITIVE SURGICAL, INC., Defendant

For Homer Lee Reece, Nelda Reece, Plaintiffs: Bobby Jewell Bell, Jr, C Carter Clay, HOLLIS WRIGHT CLAY & VAIL, P.C., Birmingham, AL.

For Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Defendant: F M Haston, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS LLP, Birmingham, AL; Lindsey C Boney, IV, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS, Birmingham, AL.

Page 1338

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Madeline H. Haikala, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In this diversity action, plaintiffs Homer Lee Reece and Nelda Reece assert claims against defendant Intuitive Surgical, Inc. under Tennessee law. The claims relate to injuries that Mr. Reece sustained during a surgical procedure in which Mr. Reece's physician used Intuitive's surgical robot known as the da Vinci Surgical System. During the procedure, Mr. Reece suffered injuries that required a 44-day hospitalization and multiple follow-up treatments.

Intuitive has filed a motion to dismiss. The company contends that Tennessee's one-year statute of limitations bars the Reeces' claims. (Doc. 7). Employing Alabama's choice of law rules, the Court finds that Alabama's two-year statute of limitations governs the Reeces' claims. Therefore, the Reeces' claims are timely.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

" A statute of limitations bar is 'an affirmative defense, and...plaintiff[s][are] not required to negate an affirmative defense in [their] complaint.'" La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Tregenza v. Great

Page 1339

American Communications Co., 12 F.3d 717, 718 (7th Cir. 1993)). A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal " on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is 'apparent from the face of the complaint' that the claim is time-barred." Bhd. of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen Gen. Comm. of Adjustment CSX Transp. N. Lines v. CSX Transp., Inc., 522 F.3d 1190, 1194 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Tello v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 410 F.3d 1275, 1288 (11th Cir. 2005)). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept " the facts alleged in the complaint as true" and must " draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Keating v. City of Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 762 (11th Cir. 2010).

II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2011, Mr. Reece learned that he had prostate cancer. His doctors recommended that he undergo a robotic procedure using Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci Surgical System to treat the cancer. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 7, 9). Mr. Reece travelled from his home in Bryant, Alabama to Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the surgery. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 1, 10). The surgery took place on June 9, 2011. During the procedure, Mr. Reece sustained injuries to his intestines and small bowels " by the use of the da Vinci surgical robot manufactured and sold by . . . Intuitive." (Doc. 1, ¶ 10). The doctors converted the robotic surgery to an open laparotomy surgery to repair the lacerations and tears on Mr. Reece's intestines and small bowels. (Doc. 1, ¶ 10). Mr. Reece spent the next 44 days in the hospital. (Doc. 1, ¶ 11). Mr. Reece's injuries required eight follow-up procedures. (Doc. 1, ¶ 13).

Mr. Reece and his wife filed this lawsuit against Intuitive on June 7, 2013. In their complaint, the Reeces assert seven state law claims against Intuitive: (1) product liability (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 48-76); (2) general negligence and negligent training, negligent proctoring, and negligent certification (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 77-82); (3) fraud (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 83-93); (4) breach of express warranty (Doc. 1 ¶ ¶ 94-103); (5) breach of implied warranty (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 104-11); (6) unjust enrichment (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 112-17); and (7) loss of consortium (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 118-20). Intuitive filed a motion to dismiss the Reeces' claims. (Doc. 7). This order resolves Intuitive's motion to dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

A federal court sitting in diversity applies the substantive law of the state in which the court sits, including the state's choice-of-law rules. Manuel v. Convergys Corp., 430 F.3d 1132, 1139 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941)); Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941) (finding that forum state's choice-of-law rules are substantive). Under Alabama's choice of law rules, courts must apply the law of the place of the injury -- the lex loci delicti -- to " determine the substantive rights of an injured party." Middleton v. Caterpillar Indus., Inc., 979 So.2d 53, 57 (Ala. 2007) (citing Fitts v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 581 So.2d 819, ...


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