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The Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. Samsung SDI Company Ltd.

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

August 15, 2018

THE CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SAMSUNG SDI COMPANY LTD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Henry Schein, Inc. (“Henry Schein”). (Doc. # 26). The Motion is fully briefed. (Docs. # 26, 30, 36). After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 26) is due to be granted in part. Plaintiffs' Complaint is due to be stricken as a shotgun pleading, and they shall file an Amended Complaint in accordance with the court's instructions before proceeding in this action.

         I. Background[1]

         On or about January 20, 2016, an ASUS laptop computer containing a Simplo battery pack with Samsung SDI lithium-ion batteries self-ignited, resulting in substantial damages to the property and leasehold of Plaintiff Terry A. Burgess DDS, Inc., d/b/a Madison Center for Dental Care (hereinafter “Madison Center for Dental Care”). (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 29). Defendant Henry Schein designs, manufactures, assembles, sells, and distributes dental products. (Id. at ¶ 11). Henry Schein obtained the laptop computer and used it as a component in a dental product that it sold to Plaintiff Madison Center for Dental Care. (Id.).

         The laptop reached Plaintiff Madison Center for Dental Care without substantial change in its condition from the time it was sold or placed into the stream of commerce by Defendants. (Id. at ¶ 28). Plaintiffs were unaware of the laptop's defects, and they claim that the defects were not discoverable through reasonable inspection. (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiffs allege that all of the Defendants, including Henry Schein, knew or should have known about the defective nature of the laptop. (Id. at ¶ 29).

         Plaintiffs' Complaint raises four claims against all Defendants. First, Plaintiffs allege that all Defendants negligently sold, distributed, manufactured, assembled, and/or designed a defective laptop computer, which caused damage to the property of Madison Center for Dental Care. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-32). Second, Plaintiffs allege that all Defendants violated the Alabama Extended Manufacturers Liability Doctrine (“AEMLD”) by selling, distributing, manufacturing, assembling, and/or designing an unreasonably dangerous laptop or one that was in a defective condition. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-41). Third, Plaintiffs allege that all Defendants failed to warn Plaintiffs of potential hazards or failed to design and install adequate risk reduction devices. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-44). Finally, Plaintiffs allege that all Defendants violated express or implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-50).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads 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 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 Fed.Appx. 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the court determines that well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. Analysis

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Henry Schein first argues that the claims against it fail to meet the Twombly plausibility standard because the Complaint raises generic allegations against each Defendant. Second, Henry Schein contends that the claims against it fail as a matter of law due to the “innocent seller” defense in Alabama Code § 6-5-521. Finally, Henry Schein contends that the Complaint is a shotgun pleading. Because the “shotgun” nature of the Complaint is apparent, the court addresses this category of deficiencies as an initial matter.

         The Eleventh Circuit has identified four types of shotgun pleadings:

The most common type-by a long shot-is a complaint containing multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint. The next most common type, at least as far as our published opinions on the subject reflect, is a complaint that does not commit the mortal sin of re-alleging all preceding counts but is guilty of the venial sin of being replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action. The third type of shotgun pleading is one that commits the sin of not separating into a different count each cause of action or claim for relief. Fourth, and finally, there is the relatively rare sin of asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought ...

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