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This post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.

Plaintiffs and defendants have now completed briefing before the Fifth Circuit on defendants’ appeal of the $498 million verdict in the second bellwether trial of the Pinnacle hip implant MDL. Obviously, there is a lot riding on this appeal. In March, we laid out for you the manner in which defendants’ opening brief addressed certain key issues. Below, we discuss the defendants’ responses, in their reply brief, to the arguments that plaintiffs make on those key issues in their opening brief:

Design Defect Verdict: While defendants have offered a number of reasons to overturn the verdict on design defect, the survival of that portion of the verdict could very well turn on whether plaintiffs can convince the Fifth Circuit that an allegedly safer alternative design for DePuy’s metal-on-metal hip implant, a necessary element of a design defect claim, can be an entirely different product—a metal-on-polyethylene hip implant—one that is already marketed by DePuy. In our experience, an entirely different product cannot serve as an alternative design. Here is a portion of defendants’ discussion of this failing in their reply brief:

To prevail on their design-defect claims, plaintiffs were required to prove that a safer alternative design existed for the Pinnacle Ultamet. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Shears, 911 S.W.2d 379, 384 (Tex. 1995). Yet plaintiffs do not argue that the Ultamet should have been shaped differently, secured differently, made of a different metal alloy, or altered in some other way. Instead, plaintiffs argue that the safer alternative design is the Pinnacle AltrX, an existing metal-on-polyethylene hip implant. The question here is whether that metal-on-polyethylene hip implant—which already exists and, indeed, is manufactured and sold by DePuy—is an “alternative design” for the Pinnacle Ultamet, or is instead an “entirely different product.” Brockert v. Wyeth Pharm., Inc., 287 S.W.3d 760, 770 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2009).

Brockert provides the answer. In Brockert, the plaintiff argued that an “alternative design” for a drug combining estrogen with progestin was a drug containing only estrogen. Id. at 769. There, like here, that proposed alternative already existed and, again like here, was manufactured by the defendant. Id. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals held that plaintiff’s claim failed because she did not show how the defendant’s drug “could have been modified or improved”; she instead argued that the drug should be an entirely different product—i.e., the one defendants already made. Id. at 770-71. . . .

Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish Brockert and Caterpillar by noting that the proposed alternatives in those cases “impaired the product’s utility.” But that is no distinction at all: plaintiffs’ proposed alternative design here would impair the Ultamet’s utility by eliminating precisely the feature that makes it distinctive and an arguable improvement over pre-existing products. Plaintiffs do not deny that metal is more durable than plastic, making metal-on-metal implants a more “attractive option for the younger, high-demand patient who was wearing out their plastic previously.” Nor do they dispute that metal-on-metal implants eliminate plastic debris. Texas law requires plaintiffs to propose an alternative design that replicates those benefits, not just any two benefits they can conjure up. In short, plaintiffs were required to propose a safer alternative design for a metal-on-metal hip implant, but they instead pointed to a different product altogether, which is precisely what Texas courts have held that plaintiffs may not do.

(Defendants’ Reply Br. at 3-6.)

Failure to Warn (Marketing Defect) Verdict: In their opening brief, defendants argued that their Instructions for Use sufficiently warned about the risks that form the basis of plaintiffs’ claims, while plaintiffs’ opening brief argues that those warnings needed to be more specific. While we believe that defendants have the better of that argument, they appear to have even stronger arguments as to plaintiffs’ failures to offer expert testimony on causation or prescriber testimony on how a different warning would have changed their decisions to use the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant. Here are key excerpts from defendants’ reply brief on these issues:

[Lack of Expert Opinion]

Regardless, plaintiffs can prevail under Texas law only if they established with expert testimony that the warnings were inadequate, and they did not do so here. Plaintiffs do not dispute this requirement, instead contending that Dr. Matthew Morrey’s testimony satisfied their burden. But Dr. Morrey was never tendered or admitted as a warnings expert at trial. Plaintiffs attempt to dance around that problem by stating that they designated Dr. Morrey as a warnings expert before trial, but the district court never evaluated his qualifications to be a warnings expert or admitted him as a warnings expert, and his testimony therefore cannot carry plaintiffs’ burden.

[Lack of Prescriber Testimony]

Greer: Greer’s surgeon, Dr. Goletz, did not testify at trial. . . .

Peterson: Peterson’s surgeon, Dr. Schoch, also did not testify at trial. . . .

Christopher: Plaintiffs do not dispute that Christopher’s surgeon, Dr. Kearns, “never read an [IFU] on the Pinnacle Ultamet” and did not know what the IFU said “regarding risks for the implantation of these devices.” . . .

Klusmann: Plaintiffs assert that Klusmann’s surgeon, Dr. Heinrich, testified that additional information “would have changed how he treated Klusmann.” But Heinrich did not say he would have used a different hip implant; he said only that he would have evaluated Klusmann’s post-implant symptoms differently. Dr. Heinrich never testified that he would have used anything other than the Ultamet, and in fact testified that he was aware of the risk of metal ions attacking tissue, but used the Ultamet anyway.

Aoki: The only testimony plaintiffs cite about Aoki is her statement that Dr. Heinrich told her the Ultamet could last “up to 20 years and perhaps life.” But that testimony does not prove that Dr. Heinrich would have used a different implant if DePuy provided different warnings, especially in light of his testimony that he was aware of the Ultamet’s risks. . . . .

(Defendants’ Reply Br. at 10-14.)

Verdict against J&J: Defendants’ reply brief surgically attacks plaintiffs’ arguments on why the trial court could maintain personal jurisdiction over DePuy’s parent company, J&J, as well as plaintiffs’ theories for ultimately holding J&J liable. Plaintiffs’ personal jurisdiction arguments appear to be different from those raised at trial (and therefore waived) and to rely on exhibits that, in some cases, were not even admitted at trial and acts that were not committed by J&J itself, but instead by its subsidiaries. Plaintiffs’ opening brief also struggles to support the viability of their substantive claims against J&J, including how plaintiffs can turn an affirmative defense for a non-manufacturing seller into a cause of action. Here is how defendants sum up these problems in the introduction to their reply brief:

Plaintiffs’ efforts to justify J&J’s presence in this case are no more persuasive. They abandon their previous personal-jurisdiction arguments for new ones, asking this Court to adopt a stream-of-commerce theory so expansive it would bring every parent company into any litigation involving a subsidiary. They try to buttress that argument with lengthy footnotes full of string-cites to evidence either not in the trial record or not what they claim, but super-sized footnotes are no substitute for minimum contacts, which are plainly lacking. And even if they could establish jurisdiction, plaintiffs have no viable claims against J&J. They do not point to a single Texas case holding a defendant liable in tort for a “nonmanufacturing seller” claim or an aiding-and-abetting claim, and they fail to show that J&J undertook a duty for their protection or that they relied on its performance.

(Defendants’ Reply Br. at 1.)

Highly Inflammatory, Irrelevant and Unduly Prejudicial Evidence: This is the BIG issue, the one that raised so many eyebrows as the trial moved on. In their opening brief, plaintiffs try to calm those reactions by underplaying their use of this evidence at trial and its importance to the verdict. But the defendants reply brief reacts effectively to this tactic, providing detail on plaintiffs’ repeated, not limited, used of this evidence, so much so that it formed a central component of their presentation to the jury. Here is how defendants address this issue in, once again, the introduction to their reply brief:

Plaintiffs’ defense of the inflammatory evidence they introduced at trial is to assert that each transgression was not that inflammatory. After all, they referenced Saddam Hussein in only “a handful of exchanges,” linked defendants to tobacco and asbestos companies while questioning only “one defense expert,” invoked the threat of cancer for only “three-and-a-half pages of testimony,” implied just “twice” that the Ultamet could lead to suicide, told the jury that plaintiffs considered jumping off a bridge for a mere “five lines of argument,” mentioned the thousands of other lawsuits in the MDL only “on five occasions,” and discussed transvaginal mesh lawsuits brought by “45,000 women” for only “12 lines of testimony.” The suggestion that the combined effect of all this profoundly prejudicial evidence was marginal does not pass the straight-face test; indeed, the best indication of the importance of this evidence is that fact that plaintiffs’ counsel repeated all of it in his closing statement to the jury. Inflaming the jury’s passions through irrelevant evidence was not just a happenstance but a core component of plaintiffs’ trial strategy, and the gargantuan verdict shows the success of that strategy.

(Defendants’ Reply Br. at 2.)

Next comes oral argument and then the Fifth Circuit’s decision. And that decision will, quite obviously, have a major impact on the future of an MDL that without appellate intervention appears destined to produce more and more massive verdicts.

Executions by lethal injection are in the news. Arkansas recently executed four inmates in just eight days. One of the drugs that it uses for its three-drug lethal injection protocol was set to move beyond its expiration date. And, apparently, Arkansas wanted to use them before that happened.  It seems that states are finding it more and more difficult to get the drugs that they need for lethal-injection executions.

In fact, Texas so badly needs to get access to one of those drugs that it is now suing the FDA to get it. The drug—thiopental sodium—is used to render inmates unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered. But Texas can’t get thiopental sodium anymore because the FDA, as of five years ago, bans its importation. It did so after a group of inmates successfully sued the FDA in federal court to stop it from allowing thiopental sodium into the country. The inmates claimed that thiopental sodium (i) was “misbranded” and (ii) an unapproved new drug. Interestingly, the FDA conceded both points. It argued that it could still allow thiopental sodium into the country, however, by exercising its enforcement discretion. The federal court disagreed. See Beaty v. FDA, 853 F. Supp. 2d 30 (D.D.C. 2012), aff’d in part, rev’d in part sub nom., Cook v. FDA, 733 F.2d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2013). The court held that the language of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, in particular its repeated use of the word “shall,” gave the FDA no such discretion. We wrote about that decision here.

Since then, the FDA has banned the importation of thiopental sodium. And that’s where Texas comes in. Texas needs thiopental sodium for its lethal injection program. In 2015, Texas attempted to import thiopental sodium to be used in its lethal injection protocol, and the FDA detained it. On April 20, 2017, after a lengthy administrative process, the FDA reached (what Texas calls) a final decision, holding firm to its determination that it must follow the Beaty decision and ban the importation of thiopental sodium.

And so, just over a week ago, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed an amended complaint in federal court in Texas challenging the FDA’s determination. Texas, however, does not claim that the FDA does in fact have the enforcement discretion necessary to allow thiopental sodium into the country. Instead, it tries to shift the focus of the dispute, claiming that thiopental sodium is not misbranded and that its distribution does not require FDA approval.

In particular, Texas claims that thiopental sodium does not meet the FDCA’s definition of a “new drug” and therefore does not require FDA approval. Under the FDCA, a drug is a “new drug” requiring approval if it is not generally recognized by experts “as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling.” 21 U.S.C § 321(p). Texas claims that the labeling of the thiopental sodium it imported makes no statements about its use at all and, therefore, it does not qualify as a new drug that requires approval. Texas also claims that its proposed use of thiopental sodium falls under a “law enforcement” exception (21 C.F.R. § 201.125) to the statutory requirement that a drug come with instructions for use and, therefore, the thiopental sodium was not “misbranded” for failure to come with such instructions.

Well, these are certainly interesting claims, ones that we are quite sure that the FDA will fight. In fact, the FDA’s administrative decision states that it doesn’t buy this arguments. The FDA believes that the statements made on the thiopental sodium packaging, as limited as they are, suggest its use for lethal injections and therefore constitute labeling requiring its approval as a new drug. It also believes that the “law enforcement” exception does not apply when the drug is to be administered to humans.

From our point of view, we know that a regulatory agency like the FDA is not going to accept a claim that limits it authority or jurisdiction without a fight—particularly when, as here, it addresses whether the FDA must approve a “new drug,” one of the most important roles that the FDA plays. Accordingly, this litigation will address important issues related to labeling and “new drugs,” and we will follow it.

We’ve addressed sunscreen class actions here from time to time. The FDA regulates sunscreen as an OTC drug, and so these class actions can generate decisions of interest in areas of preemption and primary jurisdiction. For instance, we told you about, Gisvold v. Merck & Co., 62 F. Supp. 3d 1198 (S.D. Cal. 2014), in which a court found preempted a putative class action plaintiff’s claim that the Coppertone SPORT SPF 100+ she bought at Walmart should have disclaimed that it was no more effective than sunscreen with an SPF of 50.  The court based its preemption determination on the plaintiff seeking labeling that was different from that required by the FDA.  In addition, the court invoked primary jurisdiction, deferring to the FDA on how to address SPF values greater than 50, as the FDA was already in the process of evaluating that issue.

But, as in medical device cases, preemption in sunscreen litigation can seem muddled. Just recently in another sunscreen class action, Dayan v. Swiss-American Prods., Inc. (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 207), a federal court in New York rejected a preemption-based motion to dismiss a claim that the labeling of a sunscreen product as SPF 45 was misleading because the product actually performed at a lower SPF level.  As support for his claim, plaintiff pled data from tests conducted under the FDA’s SPF testing protocols. The court adopted a magistrate’s report and recommendation, which reasoned that the plaintiff’s “state law claims [sat] next to federal regulations and are not premised on Defendant’s alleged failure to comply with FDCA requirements.” Id. at *4. Sort of a parallel violation claim for sunscreen.

As the court conceded, though, its distinction between what is preempted and what is not is, at best, “tricky.” Id. at *10. There seems to be little to no air on which plaintiff’s claim can survive between express and implied preemption. If, as his case develops, plaintiff is left to argue that the defendant followed FDA-mandated protocols in testing the sunscreen and disclosing the results, his claim that the label should nonetheless be different would seem to trigger preemption because it would require something different from what the FDA requires. On the other hand, if plaintiff’s claim, as fleshed out through discovery, appears to be that the defendant failed to follow FDA protocols, it would start to read like an improper attempt to privately enforce FDA regulations.

In other words, sunscreen preemption seems every bit as messy as medical device preemption. Maybe, in this case, it can be cleared up at the summary judgment stage—that is, if this case gets passed class certification—where defendant may have another chance, based on a full record of what plaintiff is trying to do, to ask for judgment based on preemption.

Doctors warn patients and decide which warnings to give. Manufacturers warn doctors and, if a particular doctor already knows a particular risk, it doesn’t even matter—in a court room, that is—whether the manufacturer warned the doctor. That is the interplay between the learned intermediary doctrine and the proximate causation element of a failure to warn claim.

And, in Tomaselli v. Zimmer, Inc., 2017 WL 1011492 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2017), they came together to hand summary judgment to the defendant manufacturer and distributor. The doctor in Tomaselli surgically implanted a hip repair device into one of his patients to repair the patient’s greater trochanter, part of the femur bone near the hip. Later, one of the device’s cables unwound while inside the patient so that it was laying alongside her femur, causing her some level of pain. The doctor discovered this but, ultimately, recommended to the patient that it not be removed. Thereafter, the patient and her husband sued the manufacturer, the distributor and other defendants.

But they ran into a problem, something that usually isn’t a problem unless you’re in a court room asserting a failure to warn claim. The doctor was very experienced. He had performed more than 5,000 hip surgeries over the course of a 30-year career. He knew things. And one of the things he knew was that cables in hip repair devices can fail:

Based on his experience. . . Dr. Nercessian testified that cable breakage is “a known risk of any wire, any cable,” and that cables tend to break “[b]y reaching and exceeding the maximum fatigue strength of the metal.” Asked whether a cable implanted to repair a greater trochanter fracture may break if the fracture fails to fully heal—a so-called “nonunion”—Dr. Nercessian replied, “Definitely.”

Id. at *1 (citations omitted).

So this doctor knew the risk. That meant that, for purposes of the plaintiffs’ failure to warn claim, it didn’t matter whether the manufacturer had warned the doctor. He already knew. Moreover, this doctor chose, for whatever reason, not to warn this patient about that risk. That didn’t matter either. The doctor’s knowledge of that risk, whether he chose to convey it to his patient or not, cut off proximate causation. Here is the court laying out these principles under New York law:

Under the “informed intermediary” doctrine, a manufacturer “discharges its duty by providing the physician with sufficient information concerning the risks of the device.” Moreover, “where the treating physician is independently aware of potential adverse events, that knowledge is an intervening event relieving the manufacturer of any liability to a patient under the failure to warn theory.” “A physician’s existing awareness of a potential risk or side effect thus severs the causal chain between an allegedly inadequate warning and a plaintiff’s injury.”

Id. at *3 (citations omitted). And, finding no proximate causation, the court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer and distributor on plaintiffs’ failure to warn claim.

A couple of months ago, we reported on the magistrate’s report and recommendation in this case to grant summary judgment against all plaintiff’s claims, which included her failure to warn, design defect and warranty claims. At that time, we seriously doubted that plaintiff would object to the report and recommendation. It was so well-reasoned. You can read our discussion of that report, which was much more detailed, here. As it turns out, plaintiff did object, but only to the failure to warn recommendation. And, as it also turns out, we were right. The report and recommendation was well reasoned. With this decision, the district judge adopted the magistrate’s “thorough and well-reasoned Report in its entirety.”  Id. at *4.  And, now, we can be virtually certain that this is the last we will hear of this case.

 

This post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.

We’ve been following the Pinnacle MDL closely through the last two bellwether trials, starting with the news coming out of the second bellwether trial of particularly curious and prejudicial evidence being presented to the jury. Given that evidence, we expected a plaintiffs’ victory, an expectation that was borne out with a whopping $498 million verdict. It raised an immediate question: “What will the Fifth Circuit do?”

Well, we’re on our way to finding out. The defense recently filed their opening appellate brief. While it features the controversial evidentiary rulings, much more is in play. If you would like to take a look for yourself, here is the brief.  Below are some of the key issues, along with a quick description of the defense’s arguments:

Design Defect Claim against DePuy (Brief at 20-29): Claim that all metal-on-metal hip implants are defective is not viable under Texas law because a wholly different product cannot serve as a safer design; design claim is preempted because the FDA approved metal-on-metal hip implants; and design claim fails under Restatement (Second) of Torts 402A comment k (adopted in Texas), which recognizes that products like implantable devices are unavoidably unsafe and therefore not defective if properly made and warned about.

Continue Reading Briefing Underway in Appeal of Half-Billion-Dollar Verdict in Pinnacle MDL

Court Finds Fraudulent Joinder by Relying on a Sales Rep’s Affidavit and Common Sense

Buckles v. Coombs, 2016 U.S. Dist. Ct. LEXIS 180784 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 4 2017), is a decision that illustrates how a defendant’s proper introduction of facts via an affidavit and a court’s introduction of common sense into its decision process can come together to result in the denial of a plaintiff’s motion to remand an action to state court.

In Buckles, the plaintiff alleged that she was injured due to an allegedly defective cutting device used in her knee replacement. In her state-court complaint, she sued not only the diverse manufacturer, Howmedica, but its non-diverse sales rep. The defendants, having seen that move before, claimed fraudulent joinder of the sales rep and removed the action to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction.

Plaintiff moved to remand the action back to state court. Plaintiff argued that the sales rep was, in fact, a proper defendant because he had been negligent in promoting, marketing, testing and warning about the device—and so on. She supported these arguments with nothing more than the allegations in her complaint, which were fairly broad and conclusory. That was her mistake.

The court made clear that the proper standard under which a court should determine whether a non-diverse defendant has been fraudulently joined is like that applied to summary judgment motions, not the standard for motions to dismiss: “A district court’s process for resolving a claim of fraudulent joinder is similar to that used for ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Id. at * 5 (citing Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997). And the defendants were relying on more than the general allegations in the complaint. They offered facts from the sales rep himself in an affidavit in which he specifically refuted the general allegations of the complaint:

As set forth in [the sales rep’s] affidavit, however: (1) he was present during [plaintiff’s] surgery “only to facilitate bringing the implants to the operating room and for no other purpose” (2) he did not call on [plaintiff’s] surgeon at any time prior to her surgery on August 21, 2012, or anytime thereafter (3) he did not “promote, advertise, represent, recommend or sell” the Cutting Guide used during [plaintiff’s] surgery; (4) he had no involvement in the preoperative imaging for [plaintiff’s] Cutting Guide and had no other involvement in the planning of her surgery; and (5) he has no medical training, but rather, relies on the materials and information provided to him by Howmedica in carrying out his job duties.

Id. at *8.

Continue Reading Court Finds Fraudulent Joinder by Relying on a Sales Rep’s Affidavit and Common Sense

We’ve addressed many times Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code §82.007, a tort reform statute that, essentially, creates a presumption in drugs cases that a drug’s warning is adequate if the FDA approved it. See §82.007(a)(1). The statute gives plaintiffs with five ways to rebut that presumption, one of which is to show that the defendant withheld information from, or misrepresented information to, the FDA. §82.007(b)(1). That means of rebuttal, however, was held to be preempted by the Fifth Circuit under Buckman because it requires a plaintiff to prove fraud on the FDA. Lofton v. McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharma., 672 F.3d 372 (5th Cir. 2012).

We recently uncovered a case in which a plaintiff actually tried to expand the Fifth Circuit’s ruling as a way around §82.007’s presumption of warning adequacy. See T.R.M. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183272, (S.D. Tex. Aug. 21, 2015). In particular, the plaintiff argued that, if Buckman preemption applies at all, it must invalidate all of §82.007, not just its fraud-on-the-FDA based rebuttal. In short, even though the statute created a presumption of adequacy and five ways to rebut it, the plaintiff asked the court to scrap the entire presumption regime because one means of rebuttal was preempted.

Uh, no.

Rules of statutory construction require courts to give effect to as much of a statute as possible while maintaining its original purpose, severing only as little as necessary. Preempting only the fraud-on-the-FDA rebuttal provision of §82.007 accomplishes that. Plaintiffs still have the potential options of four other means of rebuttal and, in fact, might even be able to use the fraud-on-the-FDA rebuttal if the FDA itself made such a finding.

Continue Reading Texas Federal Court Rejects Attempt to Misapply Buckman to Invalidate Statutory Rebuttable Presumption of Warning Adequacy

Well that was something. When we left you last Thursday, the jury for the third bellwether trial in the Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL had just started its deliberations, and we once again expressed concern over the trial’s evidentiary and procedural rulings and the effect they might have on the verdict. Our concern-level was high. Last time, amidst similar concerns, the jury came back with a half-billion dollar verdict.

Apparently that was chump change. Everything is bigger in Texas. And this time it was over one billion. Let that sink in. Over one billion. That’s a massive amount of money. Has anyone even ever won that in a lottery? It’s 1,000 winners of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. And then you have to add about 40 more winners because the actual verdict was about $1.04 billion.

Continue Reading The One-Billion-Dollar Verdict

This post comes from the Cozen O’Connor side of the blog.

After two months, the third bellwether trial in the Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL is coming to an end. The jury heard closing arguments yesterday and began deliberating late in the afternoon. They start up again this morning.

Much like the second bellwether trial, this trial was not without controversy. The signs were ominous before it began.  Two weeks before trial, the court issued a sua sponte order consolidating six separate plaintiffs for the trial, close to any defendant’s worst nightmare. The court also ruled that plaintiffs could serve notices that would require company witnesses who were outside the geographic reach of the court to nonetheless testify live via satellite. Defendants could not substitute trial depositions for the satellite testimony, even though trial depositions had already been taken, complete with cross-examination of the witnesses by plaintiffs’ counsel. This order was sufficiently controversial that a Fifth Circuit judge, while concurring with his colleagues’ decision to reject defendants’ writ of mandamus challenging the order, chose to issue a one-sentence concurring opinion saying that the MDL judge got it wrong.

Continue Reading Buckle Up: The Jury Is Out in the Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL’s Third Bellwether Trial

Are any of you Walmart shoppers? Would you admit it? This DDL blogger does. Walmart sells everything, and at prices too good to pass up: HDTVs, electronics, car stuff, refurbished Titleist golf balls so cheap you almost don’t mind losing them in the woods.

And, yes, we know there’s a downside. Walmart stores are huge. You get lost. It’s loud. Its aisles are crowded. The cashier section in the front is busy like midtown traffic. You always screw up the self-serve check-out and have to wait for help. The store seems to ring and buzz like a casino. The parking lot is the same. There seem to be hundreds of thousands of cars. Available parking spots are few and never near the building. Cars seem like predators stalking the lot, searching, turning, honking, never signaling. Just leaving the store and stepping off the curb is nerve-wracking.

But what if you found a way around all that? What if your trip to Walmart was quiet, with plentiful parking spaces close to the building, the smell of flowers and a plants surrounding you, quiet aisles, a single, friendly cashier with a smile and no lines, and a short walk back to your car in a serene, empty parking lot? Well, that’s what this blogger experiences. Every time.

Yet, the Walmart we visit is no different from yours. It’s huge and there’s a busy parking lot. And so, the first thing to do, is never use that lot. Never. Just across one of the internal mall streets, there’s a different parking lot. It’s for smaller businesses, like cellphone and vitamin stores, in a small stand-alone building. That lot always has plenty of spaces. Always. You then have a short, 100-foot walk via a cross-walk to Walmart. No one else seems to have cracked this code. Perfect. When you get to Walmart, you’re standing in front of its garden center, which sits quietly on the far right side of the building. That’s your entry point. Always. Don’t go anywhere near the front entrance. Never. Instead, just grab a cart if you need one, and stroll into the garden center. It’s calm. It smells nice, plants and flowers and other gardeny things. There’s one cashier, just one. He’s friendly, relaxed, and not busy. “Welcome to Walmart.” Smile, and say “hi” back. Then turn left and walk through the large doorway that connects the garden center to Walmart proper. From there, in the distance, you can see it all. Everything you missed by not going in the front entrance—the busy aisles, the people, the large, loud cashier area, the hugeness. See it, but don’t ever go near it. Instead, turn right and walk down the aisle just on the other side of the wall from the garden center. There’s almost no one there. Who knows what’s even being sold in this aisle? Doesn’t matter. It’s quiet. Stroll to the back of the store. And, voila, there before you is the automotive section, the sporting goods section and, just a few feet to your left, the electronics section. Sweet. Seconds ago, you left your car in a quiet lot, saw three people, and now you’re in the electronics section. So get what you want, put it in your cart, and go. Walk back the way you came, down the very same quiet aisle. Go nowhere near the front of the store. Don’t even think about using the cashiers up front. Just stay under the radar and quietly, sanely head back to your new friend, the garden center cashier. Yes, the garden center cashier will ring up your HDTV. He’ll ring up your can of Turtle Wax. Every time. Once again, enjoy the smell of the garden. Smile at the—at most—one other person in line, likely buying a plant. Ask the cashier whether those birds are often in the rafters tweeting. Discuss the weather. Relax. Once you pay, say goodbye and casually walk out the garden center door through which you entered, look to your right at the teeming mass of blech that you never stepped into, and then turn left and walk the 100-feet across the crosswalk to your lonely car. Place your wildly cheap goods in the trunk, take a seat in the car, turn on the radio, and glide out of the empty parking lot. It was like a trip to the spa—except you get to leave with an HDTV that cost twelve cents.

We’ve never bought OTC medication at Walmart, but that’s the subject of Nelson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2014 WL 12461056 (N.D. Fla. Mar. 26, 2014), an older case that just recently made its way onto Westlaw. Nelson is a putative class action in which the named plaintiff claimed that Walmart engaged in deceptive sales practices related to two generic OTC pain relievers—Equate Extra Strength Headache Relief and Equate Migraine Relief—because the price for the Migraine medication was greater than the price of the Headache medication, even though their active ingredients were the same. Walmart moved to dismiss, and the court’s decision holds some interest for us because it involved Mensing.

Continue Reading A Day Shopping At Walmart and Mensing Preemption