Photo of Rachel B. Weil

When last we spoke, we were about to deliver our beautiful standard poodle puppy, Luca (registered name Tivin Dreamcatcher), to his show handler, who would trim him and train him and launch his dog show career.  The transfer was accomplished without incident, if you don’t count mommy’s predicable reaction to the separation.  It also included a fun day of hanging around the dog show watching Luca’s beautiful white sister, Leah (Tivin Dreamweaver), who has already begun showing.  Luca responded to the strange setting and new people with the joyous confidence he has exhibited since he was a tiny baby.  Combined with the fact that he compares well to the exacting AKC conformation standard, we think that this “look at me” attitude will stand him in good stead as a show dog.  Luca’s first shows are next weekend, and we are beyond thrilled that we will be ringside. 

The federal court system also has exacting standards, and the plaintiff in today’s short decision failed to satisfy them.  In Richardson v. Tandem Diabetes Care Inc., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38279 (W.D. La. Mar. 7, 2023), 2023’s first entry in our Twiqbal cheat sheet, the plaintiff alleged that his wife/decedent was fatally injured when the defendant’s insulin pump malfunctioned.  He asserted claims for design defect and “construction/composition defect” (a manufacturing defect claim) under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”).  The defendant moved to dismiss on two grounds:  PMA preemption and Twiqbal (failure to plead facts to support the LPLA theories of liability.)   The plaintiff did not respond to the Motion to Dismiss.

Addressing preemption first, the court explained that the insulin pump was a Class III medical device subject to the FDA’s full pre-market approval (“PMA”) process.  Under SCOTUS’s Riegel decision, as readers of this blog know, state-law product liability claims against manufacturers of Class III devices are preempted when they seek to impose “requirements with respect to the device that are different from, or in addition to, the federal requirements.”  Richardson, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38279 at *6 (internal punctuation and citation to Riegel omitted).  In this case, as the court held, the plaintiffs only theories of liability were expressly preempted – the plaintiff did not even attempt to assert a parallel claim to escape preemption.

Given this, the court did not need to address the Twiqbal arguments, but it did.  The court explained that, in support of the design defect claim, the plaintiff alleged only that his decedent’s insulin pump was “reconditioned.”  The Complaint “fail[ed] to allege any . . . facts with respect to the design defect and/or whether there existed any alternative design for the insulin pump that was capable of preventing [the decedent’s] injuries.  Id. at *8.  Under the LPLA, these pleading failures were fatal to the design defect claim. 

With respect to the “defective construction/composition” claim, the court explained that, under the LPLA, a plaintiff must establish that, “at the time the product left the manufacturer’s control, the product deviated in a material way from the manufacturer’s specifications or performance standards for the product or from otherwise identical products manufactured by the same manufacturer.”  Id. at *9 (internal punctuation and citation to LPLA omitted).  The plaintiff’s complaint contained no such allegations – it did not even mention the specifications or performance standards for the insulin pump – and it failed to plead any causal connection between the alleged manufacturing defect and the plaintiff’s decedent’s injuries.  Like the design defect claim, the court held, the complaint did not allege sufficient facts to support the “defective construction/composition” claim.

And so the court dismissed the complaint on both preemption and Twiqbal grounds, a result that is no less satisfying because it was inevitable.  (Presumably because the plaintiff had previously been granted leave to amend, this dismissal was with prejudice.) We will talk to you soon with a report on our baby’s first dog show.  In the meantime, we wish happy celebrations to those who celebrate Passover and Easter.  Stay safe out there.