A group of 48 plaintiffs who filed a single GranuFlo lawsuit will be allowed to pursue their case in state court, according to a new ruling out of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Fresenius Medical Care and other defendants had removed the complaint to the Eastern District of Missouri pending possible transfer to the federal GranuFlo recall litigation in Massachusetts.
The complaint, which was filed this past March in St. Louis Circuit Court, was brought on behalf of 3 Missouri residents. The remaining 45 plaintiffs hailed from 17 different states. All alleged that GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, dialysis concentrates manufactured by Fresenius Medical Care, can cause an unsafe elevation of bicarbonate in the blood that leads to a substantially unsafe risk of cardiopulmonary arrest.
Both GranuFlo and NaturaLyte were the subject of an Urgent Product Notification in March 2012, due to issues cited in the Missouri lawsuit. The notification was later deemed a Class I GranuFlo recall by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, after the agency determined the products posed a risk of serious injury or death.
Following removal to federal court, the plaintiffs motioned to have the case remanded to St. Louis on the basis of incomplete diversity. But in their brief opposing the remand, the defense argued that fraudulent joinder applied because some of the nondiverse plaintiffs underwent their dialysis treatment after March 29, 2012, meaning their claims were time-barred. However, U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Limbaugh Jr. disagreed with that assertion, writing: “Indeed, plaintiffs refute that adequate disclosures regarding the dangers of GranuFlo were made after March 29, 2012. Therefore, to the extent that the Court can apply a fraudulent joinder analysis to the nondiverse plaintiffs on these highly fact-intensive bases, defendants cannot show that each of the six nondiverse plaintiffs lacks a ‘colorable’ claim.”
Judge Limbaugh also disagreed with the defendants’ contention that the GranuFlo lawsuit was filed in state court in order to intentionally bypass the multidistrict litigation in Massachusetts. In doing so, he noted that “if the nondiverse plaintiff is a real party in interest, the fact that his joinder was motivated by a desire to defeat federal jurisdiction is not material.”
The Missouri case is just one of more than 1,800 GranuFlo and NaturaLyte lawsuits that have been filed in state and federal courts since March 2012. The majority of claims are pending in the federal GranuFlo recall litigation underway in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. A consolidated proceeding has also been established in Massachusetts’ Middlesex County Superior Court for lawsuits involving similar allegations.