United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Waco Division
PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are two motions. The first is a Motion to Stay
filed by Defendants AmerisourceBergen Corporation, McKesson
Corporation, and Cardinal Health, Inc. (collectively,
“Distributor Defendants”). (Dkt. 6). The second
is a Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiff County of Falls
(“Falls County” or “the county”).
(Dkt. 5). This case is one of hundreds of lawsuits against
pharmaceutical companies relating to the sale, marketing, and
distribution of opioid medications. (Mot. Stay, Dkt. 6, at
4). Many of the federal cases have been transferred to the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
Ohio for consolidated proceedings (“the MDL”).
(Id.). The Distributor Defendants ask the Court to
stay this action until the Joint Panel on Multidistrict
Litigation (“JPML”) decides whether to transfer
this action to the MDL. (Id. at 7). Falls County,
meanwhile, argues that the presence of nondiverse defendants
deprives this Court of subject-matter jurisdiction and asks
the Court to deny the motion to stay and remand the case to
state court before the case is transferred. (Mot. Remand,
Dkt. 5; Resp. Mot. Stay, Dkt. 11). After considering the
parties' arguments and the relevant law, the Court agrees
with Falls County that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over this action and that remand is proper.
County filed this action in the 82nd Judicial District Court
of Falls County, Texas, on January 4, 2018, against a number
of defendants that distribute or manufacture opioid
medications. (Orig. Pet., Dkt. 1-1, at 11-12). Specifically,
those defendants include the Distributor Defendants, a group
of Doe defendants, and a group of manufacturers: Purdue
Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick
Company; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals,
Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen
Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals,
Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Endo Health
Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Abbvie Inc.;
Knoll Pharmaceutical Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Abbvie Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLC; Allergan
Finance, LLC f/k/a Actavis, Inc. f/k/a Watson
Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis
LLC; Actavis Pharma, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc.
(collectively, the “Manufacturer Defendants”).
February 15, 2018, the Distributor Defendants removed this
case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332,
1441 and 1446, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Not.
Removal, Dkt. 1, at 5). The next day, the Distributor
Defendants filed their Motion to Stay, (Dkt. 6), and the
county filed its Motion to Remand, (Dkt. 5).
defendant may remove any civil action from state court to a
district court of the United States that has original
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. District courts have
original jurisdiction over all civil actions that are between
citizens of different states and involve an amount in
controversy in excess of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Diversity jurisdiction
“requires complete diversity- if any plaintiff is a
citizen of the same State as any defendant, then diversity
jurisdiction does not exist.” Flagg v. Stryker
Corp., 819 F.3d 132, 136 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing
Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 2
L.Ed. 435 (1806)). Moreover, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2)
provides that a case cannot be removed based on diversity
jurisdiction if any properly joined defendant is a citizen of
the state in which the action is brought.
party seeking removal “bears the burden of establishing
that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was
proper.” Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas.
Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). The removal
statute must “be strictly construed, and any doubt
about the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of
remand.” Gasch v. Hartford Accident & Indem.
Co., 491 F.3d 278, 281-82 (5th Cir. 2007). A
district court is required to remand the case to state court
if, at any time before final judgment, it determines that it
lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
MOTION TO STAY
Distributor Defendants argue that a stay will conserve
judicial resources and prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings
by permitting the JPML to decide whether to transfer this
case. (Mot. Stay, Dkt. 6, at 5). Other federal courts have
decided to stay similar cases in the interest of promoting
uniformity through the MDL. (Reply Mot. Stay, Dkt. 20, at 4
(citing Estate of Brockel v. Purdue Pharma L.P., No.
1:17-cv-00521, Dkt. No. 58 at 11 (S.D. Ala. Feb. 27, 2018)).
However, Falls County points out that district judge
presiding over the MDL has issued a moratorium on substantive
filings and that their motion to remand may not be considered
for some time. (Resp. Mot. Stay, Dkt. 11, at 1). More
importantly, if this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over this action, it has no authority to stay this action.
See In re Querner, 7 F.3d 1199, 1201 (5th Cir.1993)
(“Where a federal court lacks jurisdiction, its
decisions, opinions, and orders are void.”).
MOTION TO REMAND
Distributor Defendants admit that Falls County is a Texas
citizen and that at least one of the Manufacturer Defendants,
Purdue Pharma, L.P., is a Texas citizen. (Not. Removal, Dkt.
1, at 5, 7 n.2). There is thus no question that if the
Manufacturer Defendants are properly joined, the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over this action. See
Flagg, 819 F.3d at 136.
Distributor Defendants therefore argue that the Manufacturer
Defendants are not properly joined and that the
Court should sever the county's claims against the two
sets of defendants. (Id. at 7; Resp. Mot. Remand,
Dkt. 18, at 4). Specifically, the Distributor Defendants
argue that the Manufacturer Defendants are neither necessary
parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 nor
appropriately joined parties under Rule 20. (Not. Removal,
Dkt. 1, at 8-12; Resp. Mot. Remand, Dkt. 18, at 5-10). The
Distributor Defendants move for severance under Rule 21 or
the fraudulent misjoinder doctrine. (Not. Removal, Dkt. 1, at 7,
12; Resp. Mot. Remand, Dkt. 18, at 4, 10).