The Taxotere MDL Court continues to grant Defense motions to dismiss (on a case-by-case basis), allowing Defendants to raise matters outside of the pleadings (not previously pled in the Master Answer), without seeking leave to amend prior to filing the motions, to address the matters not previously pled, while generally limiting Plaintiffs leave to amend in anticipation of such motions (which is not required in the first instance), or to counter such motions once filed.
THE NEXUS OF THE ISSUE
The Master Complaint refers to permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia, as an absence of incomplete hair regrowth six months after completion of chemotherapy.
The Taxotere MDL Court has construed the above as admission of fact by individual Plaintiffs adopting the Master Complaint, as an admittance on the record that that specific Plaintiff possessed this knowledge six months after completion of chemotherapy.
One might pose the question to Her Honor, prior to appointment to the Taxotere MDL, “Did you know that the failure of hair to regrow within six months after completion of chemotherapy was conclusive of the condition being permanent?”
How can it be said that the aforementioned “admission of fact” by any given Plaintiff is any more than admission that the Plaintiff was aware (knew/discovered) of this fact at any time prior to the filing of the complaint, specific to that Plaintiff. The Taxotere MDL Court has somehow reached such a conclusion.
More simply stated, admitting that a Plaintiff knew a fact on the day she filed her complaint, is not an admittance that she possessed, discovered nor reasonable would have been expected to discover, that same fact, at an earlier point in time, and thus should have filed her complaint at some earlier point in time, based on the knowledge (discovery) to avoid the complaint being SOL barred.
It is also important to note that Plaintiffs are not required to plead matters in their complaint in anticipation of any affirmative defense.
Additionally, it is important to note that Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12 applies not only to Plaintiff pleadings, Rule 12 also applies to affirmative defenses raised by Defendants.
DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS BASED ON SOL
Defense motions to dismiss individual Plaintiffs’ cases in MDLs, based on SOL are generally brought under Rule 12(b)(6) (Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted) or Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (see citations at the end of this article).
If a Defendant wishes to raise SOL matters under 12(b)(6), they must do so by the filing of a motion.
In the MDL context, this means that the “Master Answer” would need to adequately plead the SOL Statutes and Jurisprudence of all 50 States, as well as every possible set of Plaintiff facts that might later arise (on a case-by-case basis) relevant to those SOL Statutes and Jurisprudence of all 50 States. If the Master Answer was not plead as above, the Defendant would need to file for leave to amend, and file said amendment to the answer of the given specific Plaintiff’s case.
In that it would be impossible for a Defendant to accomplish the above in the “Master Answer”, a Defendant should be required to file a motion for leave to amend (to plead facts, law, and other matters not pled in the Master Answer) specific to the given Plaintiff against whom they move).
In this scenario, a Plaintiff Motion to Strike pursuant to Rule 12(f) should be considered, based on Defendant’s failure to adequately plead the defense in the answer. Additionally, the Defendant having raised matters (like specific state law) in the motion to dismiss, not raised in the answer (matters outside the pleadings).
If the Defendant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Fed R. Civ. Pro. 12(c), and raises any matter (case law citation, statute, or fact) not cited and raised in the Master Answer, the Court must treat this motion as a Motion for Summary Judgement and apply Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12 (d).
Under either scenario, it would be arguably prejudicial and an abuse of discretion for a Court to allow a Defendant leave to amend their answer, for the purpose of filing a motion under 12(b)(6), and then deny the Plaintiff the same leave (to amend the complaint), once the Defendant’s motion was filed.
According to Fed R. Civ. Pro. 12(c) (which invokes Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56), it would arguably be an abuse of discretion for the Court to deny a Plaintiff’s motion to amend, in the face of a motion under these rules. In fact, the widely held (the term “black letter case law” is apt) that leave to amend is to be freely granted, is not merely a concept, as the premise behind the concept is rooted in the right to due process granted under the U.S. Constitution.
The Taxotere Court seems to be willing to allow Defendants to file dismissal motions, raising matter (case law, statute etc.) not previously raised (matters outside the [prior] pleadings) at the late stages of the litigation, while denying Plaintiffs leave to amend, holding that it would be prejudicial (to Defendants) for the Court to allow Plaintiffs to amend their complaints at “this late stage”.
“You can’t amend your answer at this late stage, to counter a motion brought by Defendants at this late stage.” One wonders how a court of equity justifies such an inequitable holding.
Rule 15 (a) declares that leave to amend, “shall be freely given when justice so requires”; this mandate is to be heeded. Foman v. Davis, 371 US 178 – Supreme Court 1962 id at 182.
We review the decision to deny a party leave to amend its complaint for abuse of discretion. United States ex rel. Willard v. Humana Health Plan of Tex., Inc., 336 F.3d 375, 387 (5th Cir.2003). Leave to amend should be freely given, FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a), and outright refusal to grant leave to amend without a justification such as, “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.” is considered an abuse of discretion. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962); see also Humana Health Plan, 336 F.3d at 386 (citing Foman for examples of permitted reasons to deny leave to amend). US ex rel. Adrian v. Regents of Univ. of Calif., 363 F. 3d 398 – Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit 2004.
It is too late in the day and entirely contrary to the spirit of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for decisions on the merits to be avoided on the basis of such mere technicalities. “The Federal Rules reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U. S. 41, 48. Foman v. Davis, 371 US 178 – Supreme Court 1962 id at 182.
Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required. But a party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6)
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. After the pleadings are closed—but early enough not to delay trial—a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. Fed R. Civ. Pro. 12(c)
Result of Presenting Matters Outside the Pleadings. If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to, and not excluded by, the Court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12 (d)
This article was written by John Ray. John Ray is not an attorney. No word, statement, utterance nor implication herein, should be construed as legal advice. The expressions in this article are the thoughts and opinions of the author and should not be attributed to any third party. The Statutes, Rules and Case Law cited herein, speak for themselves.