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Missouri Judge Remands GranuFlo and NaturaLyte Lawsuit to State Court

GranuFlo and NaturaLyte LawsuitA Missouri federal judge has remanded a GranuFlo and NaturaLyte lawsuit to state court, citing a lack of complete diversity of citizenship, rejecting the defendants’ arguments that the nondiverse plaintiffs do not have a colorable claim.

Judge Stephen M. Limbaugh Jr. also denied the defendants’ motion to stay the case pending possible transfer to the ongoing GranuFlo and NaturaLyte multidistrict litigation.

A total of 48 plaintiffs filed a complaint against Fresenius, in March in St. Louis Circuit Court, alleging that the dialysates can lead to unsafe elevation of bicarbonate level in the blood that can result in a significantly large risk of cardiopulmonary arrest. A number of medical experts share the common belief that these excess bicarbonates can cause metabolic alkalosis, a condition that can cause cardiac arrhythmia, low blood pressure, cardiac arrest, hyerpcapnia, hypoxemia, and even premature death.

The plaintiffs allege that Fresenius has distributed NaturaLyte and GranuFlo since 2003, using a formula that was the topic of a Class I recall by the FDA in June 2012. Plaintiffs are suing on a number of counts, including negligence, strict liability, breaches of warranties, negligent misrepresentation, loss of consortium and wrongful death. Three plaintiffs are Missouri residents, while the other 45 reside in 17 different states.

Granuflo and NaturaLyte lawsuit

In March 2013, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation coordinated all federal NaturaLyte and GranuFlo lawsuits and transferred them to the District of Massachusetts. Defendants moved this action to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction and moved to stay the case pending the potential transfer to MDL 2428. However, the plaintiffs removed remand based on incomplete diversity.

In the opposing remand, the defendants argued that plaintiffs are purposely sidestepping the MDL, which was created to adjudicate the cases in an efficient manner, rather than encumbering the St. Louis state court system.

Judge Limbaugh rejected the argument of the defense, saying “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 defendants also claim the cases of the nondiverse plaintiffs are time-sensitive and consequently fraudulent joinder applies to save the subject matter jurisdiction of the District Court. Judge Limbaugh responded to this claim by noting that the plaintiffs need only to show that state law may impose liability under alleged facts.

“Defendants suggest that certain plaintiffs’ claims are not colorable if their dialysis occurred after March 29, 2012, but defendants have no support for that statement,” Judge Limbaugh noted. “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.”

GranuFlo MDL 2428

Currently, more than 1,500 complaints are pending under the Fresenius Medical Care MDL in the District of Massachusetts. U.S District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock is overseeing the multidistrict litigation, created as a way to help both sides converse resources and avoid conflicting rulings.

On April 8, Judge Woodlock issued a Case Management Order noting the designated bellwether trial case selection procedure. While the first trial dates have yet to be scheduled, it is unlikely they’ll begin until late 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

  1. Harris Martin, Mo. Federal Judge Remands GranuFlo/NaturaLyte Case to State Court,

  2. U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, MDL2428: In Re: Fresenius Granuflo/Naturalyte Dialysate Products Liability Litigation,

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Fresenius Medical Care North America, Naturalyte and Granuflo Acid Concentrate,