The Pope came to Philadelphia this past weekend.  That’s not the first time this has happened (JPII stopped by in 1979), but the level of paranoia this time around led to four days of street shutdowns, parking prohibitions, and all-around dystopian security that closed roads all the way from Conshohocken to City Line Avenue to the Ben Franklin Bridge.  Commercial strangulation by the unprecedented security caused Bexis’ firm shut down its Philly office for two days.

Bexis, not being a Catholic, decided that the better part of valor was simply to get out of Dodge.  So he went to New York where instead he could follow the Devil’s Path instead.  It was good, very good – some parts considerably more perpendicular than horizontal.  The Devil’s Path and nearby areas beat the literal “hell” out of anything in Pennsylvania.  The only downside is the New York State Thruway, which in its southerly direction is prone to traffic jams for no discernable reason (of course, so is the Schuylkill Expressway in Philly, except when closed entirely for Papal visits).

While walking the Devil’s Path has its benefits, so does walking the path of compliance.  In an early blogpost on the subject of punitive damages, we collected all of the caselaw we could find where compliance with government regulatory standards precluded punitive damages.  Of all the cases we found, only a couple were from state supreme courts.  Now we have another one.  While the Pope was visiting Washington, DC, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed a multi-million dollar punitive damages award in Nissan Motor Co., Ltd v. Maddox, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2015 WL 5626432 (Ky. Sept. 24, 2015), holding that the defendant’s undisputed compliance with (and in some ways exceeding) federal regulatory standards for automobiles precluded a finding of “gross negligence” or “reckless disregard,” which is the Kentucky standard, id. at *2, to support punitive damages.  That compliance precluded punitive damages as a matter of law even under a “slight care”/gross negligence standard is particularly notable, since many states set the bar higher for punitive damages than merely gross negligence.

Continue Reading Walking the Regulatory Compliance Path Defeats Punitive Damages

We walked into the Drug and Device Law Rock Climber’s room last night to find her packing for her return to college while the ignored TV blared in the background.  Onscreen was a popular cable reality franchise involving wealthy denizens of a gated community in Southern California.  The heated argument du jour involved one resident’s decision to speak privately to another about a third, during which exchange B-to-C confidences may or may not have been disclosed to A.  The original confider was adamant that the information was hers alone to control, insisting that the private conversation should not have occurred.  Much perfectly-coiffed shrieking ensued.

We were reminded of this spectacle as we read the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court in Caldwell v. Chauvin, — S.W. 3d. –, 2015 WL 3653447 (Ky. June 11, 2015).  In Caldwell,  the underlying medical malpractice action involved plaintiff’s claim that her spinal surgery was unnecessary and negligently performed and caused her permanent injuries.  In the course of discovery, defendant moved for a qualified protective order permitting him to make ex parte contacts with plaintiff’s healthcare providers.   The court entered an order permitting such contacts but expressly declining to authorize disclosure of plaintiff’s health information. The order “also explicitly stated it was [not] requiring any physician to speak with [defendant] . . . , noting [that] the treating physicians [were] free to accept of decline counsel’s request as they [saw] fit.”  Id. at *2 (internal punctuation omitted).  Plaintiff sought a writ of prohibition from the Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals declined to issue the writ, holding: 1) no Kentucky law prohibits the trial court from authorizing ex parte communications with non-expert treating physicians; and 2) the order did not violate any privacy right plaintiff might have because it did not compel the disclosure of any information.  Id.

Continue Reading Ask But Don’t Tell: Kentucky Allows Defendant to Seek Ex Parte Interviews of Plaintiff’s Treating Physicians

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog only.

That’s an admonition that plaintiffs in Cales v. Medtronic, Inc. should have heeded. Last November, they became another of the many InFuse plaintiffs to have the bulk of their claims dismissed with prejudice on the grounds of preemption, with non-preempted claims dismissed without prejudice for failure to plead with sufficient particularity. See Cales v. Medtronic, Inc., 2014 WL 6600018 (Ky. Cir. Ct. Nov. 21, 2014).  Rather than spending their time drafting a well-pleaded amended complaint for their remaining causes of action, plaintiffs moved for reconsideration.  Cales v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 14-CI-1774, slip op. (Ky. Cir. Ct. Jul. 1, 2015).  Not only was their motion denied — the court found a few other things that had slipped through the cracks that should have been dismissed as well.  In other words, plaintiffs aren’t any better off for their motion; in fact, their worse.

The crux of plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration is that the court applied the federal TwIqbal standard of pleading rather than Kentucky’s “notice” pleading standard. It turns out that plaintiffs’ complaint was so poorly crafted that the error was harmless – plaintiffs’ complaint failed even the less-demanding requirements.

But plaintiffs’ complaint wasn’t the only thing poorly crafted.  So too were plaintiffs’ arguments on reconsideration.  The court spends pages of its decision admonishing plaintiffs for “selectively cherry-pick[ing] quotes from a number of unpublished appellate decisions and out-of-context dictum to support their argument that merely pleading bald, legal conclusions satisfies Kentucky’s liberal pleading standard.”  Cales, slip op. at 5.  Challenging plaintiffs’ “Frankenstein-esque construction of notice pleading,” id. at 7, the court is clear that notice pleading does not “relieve [plaintiffs] of a responsibility to produce some factual basis to support the elements of their various claims.”  Id.

Continue Reading Be Careful What You Ask For

This post is not from the RS side of the blog.

Medtronic removed today’s case, Cole v. Medtronic, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48095 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 13, 2015, to federal court in the Western District of Kentucky.  Three and a half months later, plaintiff asked the court to remand it back to state court because a second defendant, a hospital, was a citizen of the forum state, thus triggering the forum-defendant rule and blocking removal.  We think Glen Fry can best take it from here:

Continue Reading You Want to Remand? I’m Already Gone

Way back in law school our moot court topic involved allegations of “wrongful birth” or “wrongful conception.”  The plaintiffs alleged that a doctor failed to detect a catastrophic birth defect, thus depriving the parents of the option to terminate the pregnancy.  The case involved intractable moral/philosophical  and, thus, legal issues.  That “thus” feels mandatory, but perhaps will not withstand rigorous analysis.  Nevertheless, it’s a touchy subject.  Such claims suggest, at least implicitly, that it might be better never to have been yanked from the void into this maelstrom of meat.  Many people recoil from that notion.  When a recent New Yorker article quoted the father of the Newtown, Ct shooter as wishing his son had never been born, the sentiment seemed both sensible and shocking.

Law school seems like a long time ago, and the intervening years have been blissfully bereft of issues of wrongful conception.  But a case last week caught our eye and contains some of these same issues, as well as others that are more typical in our practice.  The case was Vanden Bosch v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48055 (W.D. Ky. April 8, 2014), and it concerned an intrauterine contraceptive system.  One of the plaintiffs, Ms. Vanden Bosch, was an Indiana resident.  She claimed that the contraceptive system caused her to suffer from interstitial cystitis.  The other two plaintiffs were Kentucky residents.  They were a mother and daughter.  The mother claimed that the contraceptive caused a chromosome deletion and that, consequently, the daughter was born with severe genetic defects.

The first issue was choice of law.  This topic can seem dry, but it can be outcome dispositive and in this case we were treated to a rather colorful statement of law that Kentucky courts “are very egocentric or protective concerning choice of law questions” and there is a “strong preference in Kentucky for applying Kentucky law”.  Vanden Bosch, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48055 at *7.  Kentucky has a one year statute of limitations and plaintiff Vanden Bosch acknowledged that her claim was barred if that one-year rule applied.  She tried to escape the one year rule, but could not.  In responding to the defendant’s motion to dismiss, Vanden Bosch submitted an affidavit stating that the Amended Complaint “mistakenly alleges the place of the device insertion as Louisville, Kentucky” and that to the best of her recollection, her contraceptive device was actually inserted in Indiana.  Indiana had a longer SOL.  But the court refused to consider these new facts, as they were outside of the pleadings.   Id. at *9 n. 2.  It does not much matter, because Kentucky’s borrowing statute applies the statute of limitations of another state only when a cause of action arose in that state and only when the other state has a shorter statute of limitations.  The real problem for Vanden Bosch was the filing of her case in Kentucky.

And now we get to the wrongful conception issue.  To the extent that plaintiff Hogue was trying to recover damages based on the birth of her daughter, the court was having none of it:  “A parent has no cognizable legal injury when alleged wrongdoing results in a genetically or congenitally impaired human life, even severally impaired….”  Id. at *17.  Put another way, a “child’s life cannot be considered a legally cognizable injury.”  Id. at *18.  That’s it.  There is considerably less agonizing over that issue than we recall from our law school exercise.  Real life can be cut and dry.  Law school never is.    The former pays better.

Continue Reading Mixed Reasoning and Wrongful Conception

One of the many methods of aggregating litigation is an action filed by a governmental unit acting as “parens patriae.”  See Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation §1.02 & Reporters notes to comment b(1)(B) (ALI 2010).  Such actions, in which a “[g]overnmental actor” has “authority to speak for citizens on matters of