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Tucson Medical Center v. Purdue Pharma LP

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 18, 2018

Tucson Medical Center, Plaintiff,
v.
Purdue Pharma LP, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE RANER C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before this Court are Plaintiff's Emergency Motion to Remand and for Sanctions (Doc. 6) and Defendants' Motion to Stay (Doc. 9). The Court has considered the parties' pleadings and oral arguments. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the former, in part, and deny the latter.

         Background

         On October 5, 2018, this Court entered an order staying an earlier-filed opioid-related lawsuit (“First Case”). The purpose of the stay was to permit the court assigned to the national opioid multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) to address the applicability of 28 U.S.C. §1442 (the federal officer removal statute) and the Plaintiff's novel attempt to circumnavigate the same since “the possibility exists that such efforts might be attempted by other Plaintiffs in other proceedings that have or will be transferred to the MDL court.” Tucson Medical Center v. Purdue Pharma LP, No. 4:18-cv-00481, Doc. 50 at 2. The stay order explicitly stated that this Court had not reached “the merits of the Motion to Remand which concern[ed] the federal question jurisdiction invoked in AmerisourceBergen Drug Company's notice of removal.” Id. at 3.

         Today this Court will reach that issue, though in a slightly different context.

         Shortly after the Court issued its stay order, Plaintiff Tucson Medical Center (“TMC”) voluntarily dismissed the First Case, see Tucson Medical Center v. Purdue Pharma LP, No. 4:18-cv-00481, Docs. 51, 54, and commenced the instant action in state court. See Doc. 1 at Ex. 1. The current complaint asserts twelve state statutory and common law causes of action. Id. Notably, Plaintiff excised all claims against McKesson Corp, the defendant in the First Case that removed that matter pursuant to the federal officer removal statute[1]. Id.

         On October 29, 2018, Defendant AmerisourceBergen Drug Company (“AmerisourceBergen”) removed this case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1331 arguing, as it did in the First Case, that TMC's state law claims necessarily raise federal questions under 21 U.S.C. §§ 801, the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). Compare Doc. 1 at 5, with Tucson Medical Center v. Purdue Pharma LP, No. 4:18-cv-00481, Doc. 1 at 5. Plaintiff challenges AmerisourceBergen's removal by and through its emergency motion to remand. Doc. 6. Defendants urge this Court to stay these proceedings pending the inevitable transfer of this action to the MDL Court without reaching Plaintiff's motion to remand. Doc. 9. A stay, they argue, “will ensure judicial efficiency and consistent results in substantially similar cases raising the same federal question issues.” Doc. 20 at 1. On November 26, 2018 the Court heard oral argument on the parties' respective motions. Doc. 29.

         Motion to Stay

         A. Legal Standard

         “The power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). When considering a motion to stay, district courts take into account “(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 v. Walt Disney Co., 980 F.Supp. 1358, 1360 (C.D. Cal. 1997).

         B. Discussion

         Defendants urge this Court to refrain from considering the merits of Plaintiff's motion to remand and to find that the Rivers factors favor a stay this matter. Doc. 9 at 6 (citations omitted). The Court finds Defendants' supporting arguments uncompelling.

         To this Court's knowledge, the Ninth Circuit has never held that the Rivers factors should be exclusive. Other district courts, when faced with simultaneous motions to remand and motions to stay pending transfer to MDL, have employed the additional, three-step methodology advanced in Meyers v. Bayer AG, 143 F.Supp.2d 1044, 1049 (E.D.Wis. 2001). Thereunder, “a court should [first]... give preliminary scrutiny to the merits of the motion to remand . . . [i]f this preliminary assessment suggests that removal was improper, the court should promptly complete its consideration and remand the case to state court.” Meyers, 143 F.Supp.2d at 1049; Conroy v. Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc., 325 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1053 (N.D.Cal. 2004). If “the jurisdictional issue appears factually or legally difficult, [however, ] the court's second step should be to determine whether identical or similar jurisdictional issues have been raised in other cases that have been or may be transferred to the MDL proceeding.” Meyers, 143 F.Supp.2d at 1049; Conroy, 325 F.Supp.2d at 1053. A court should only proceed to the third step and consider the motion to stay “if the jurisdictional issue is both difficult and similar or identical to those in cases transferred or likely to be transferred.” Meyers, 143 F.Supp.2d at 1049; see also, McClelland v. Merck, No. 06-CV-00543-JMS/BMK, 2007 WL 178293, at *2 (D. Haw. January 19, 2007); Conroy, 325 F.Supp.2d at 1053.

         To date, the Ninth Circuit has not expressly adopted the Meyers methodology. However, and as explained in the Federal Judicial Center's Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth, this Court finds that scrutiny of the merits of a pending motion to ...


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