Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cunningham v. Medtronic Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 25, 2017

LORENZO R. CUNNINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
MEDTRONIC INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADING; SETTING BRIEFING SCHEDULE

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On October 30, 2014, plaintiff, a California state prisoner incarcerated at the California Healthcare Facility, filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The action arises out of lumbar-thoracic spinal fusion surgeries performed on plaintiff in April of 2012 and September of 2012. On February 21, 2017, the Court screened plaintiff's second amended complaint (“SAC”), which sought to add claims arising out of a third lumbar-thoracic spinal fusion surgery performed in February of 2016. Plaintiff has named two defendants: (1) Dr. Burch, who performed the surgeries, and (2) Medtronic Inc. (“Medtronic”), which manufactured the spinal rods used in the 2012 surgeries and February 2016 surgery. The Court found that, liberally construed, the SAC states: (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs as against Dr. Burch; (2) supplemental state law claims for negligence as against Dr. Burch; and (3) supplemental state law claims for strict liability, negligence, and failure to warn as against Medtronic. The Court also bifurcated summary judgment proceedings and directed Dr. Burch to file a motion for summary judgment, while the claims against Medtronic were stayed. Now before the Court is plaintiff's motion for leave to supplement his complaint to add claims arising out of a neck surgery performed by Dr. Burch in December of 2016. Along with the motion, plaintiff has filed a proposed supplemental complaint. Dr. Burch has filed an opposition to the motion, and plaintiff has filed a reply.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d) allows a party to supplement pleadings “upon reasonable notice and upon such terms as are just” for the purpose of alleging “transactions or occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d); Planned Parenthood of So. Arizona v. Neely, 130 F.3d 400, 402 (9th Cir. 1997). “Rule 15(d) is intended to give district courts broad discretion in allowing supplemental pleadings.” Keith v. Volpe, 858 F.2d 467, 473 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Supplemental pleadings cannot be used to introduce a separate, distinct, and new cause of action. See Neely, 130 F.3d at 402. Matters newly alleged in a supplemental complaint must have some relation to the claim set forth in the original pleading. See Keith, 858 F.2d at 474. Assuming the matters alleged in the supplemental complaint have some relation to the claim(s) set forth in the original complaint, that the supplemental pleading “technically” states a new cause of action is a factor to be considered by the court in the exercise of its discretion, along with such factors as possible prejudice or laches. Id.

         The standards for granting a motion for leave to file a supplemental pleading are the same as those for granting a motion to file an amended complaint under Rule 15(a). See Glatt v. Chicago Park Dist., 87 F.3d 190, 194 (7th Cir. 1996). “[L]eave need not be granted where the amendment of the complaint would cause the opposing party undue prejudice, is sought in bad faith, constitutes an exercise in futility, or creates undue delay.” Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989). The court should also consider whether permitting the supplemental pleading will “serve to promote judicial efficiency.” Neely, 130 F.3d at 402.

         B. Analysis

         The Court first notes that plaintiff's proposed supplemental pleading alleges only state law causes of action against Dr. Burch arising out of the December 2016 neck surgery. Although plaintiff attempts to allege an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the problem with the supplemental complaint concerns the mental state required for an Eighth Amendment claim. A defendant is deliberately indifferent if he knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps to abate it. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The defendant must not only “be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, ” but he “must also draw the inference.” Id. If the defendant should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then he has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). The supplemental complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to state a claim that Dr. Burch acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs.

         Furthermore, it does not appear that allowing the supplemental complaint would significantly promote judicial efficiency. Although the new claims bear some relation to the original claims, they “technically” state a new cause of action. See Keith, 858 F.2d at 474. Specifically, Dr. Burch points out, and plaintiff does not dispute, that the December 2016 surgery: (1) was performed on a different part of plaintiff's spine than the 2012 surgeries and February 2016 surgery; and (2) did not involve the Medtronic rods placed in plaintiff's lower back during the 2012 surgeries and February 2016 surgery.

         Finally, the instant case has already been pending for two-and-a-half years and the claims date back even further, specifically to April 2013, when plaintiff first attempted to file in this court claims arising from his April 2012 surgery. See Cunningham v. UCSF Spine Center, et al., C 13-1978 EMC (PR). Defendants have already commenced plaintiff's deposition, with plans to complete it this month. See Dkt. No. 132. Granting leave to permit a supplemental pleading would require Dr. Burch to respond to a new set of claims, likely requiring additional discovery. The Court finds that the risk of undue delay and prejudice to the opposing party outweighs any gain in judicial efficiency. Indeed, plaintiff has already amended his complaint once to add claims arising from his February 2016 surgery. Permitting amendment every time plaintiff undergoes another surgery is untenable. Simply put, it is time for this case to move forward to a conclusion.

         Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint will be denied. Plaintiff may attempt to pursue in state court the claims arising out of his December 2016 surgery.

         CONCLUSION

         For the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.