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Haywood v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 27, 2016

MICHELLE HAYWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
NOVARTIS PHARMACEUTICALS CORP., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, filed by the defendant, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, on November 2, 2015. (DE #14.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED. However, the complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and the plaintiff, Michelle Haywood, is GRANTED thirty days from the date of this Order to amend her complaint should she so choose.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Michelle Haywood (“Haywood”), filed her complaint in state court on August 13, 2015. (DE #4.) The complaint brings claims for negligence, negligent training and supervision, and public disclosure of private facts; it also lists “punitive damages” as a separate count. (Id.) The defendant, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (“Novartis”), removed the matter to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction on September 28, 2015. (DE #1.) On November 2, 2015, Novartis filed the instant motion to dismiss. (DE #14.) On November 14, 2015, Haywood filed her response in opposition to that motion. (DE #16.) Novartis filed its reply on December 1, 2015. (DE #19.) The motion is thus ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         Facts

         At the time of the alleged incident, Novartis was a prescription medication provider to Haywood. (DE #1, p. 1.) According to Haywood, on July 8, 2015, Novartis faxed protected health information about Haywood's disease, treatment, and medical providers to Haywood's co-workers. (Id.) The fax also included personal information such as Haywood's social security number, date of birth, and Medicare number. (Id. at 1-2.) Prior to that time, Haywood had explicitly told Novartis in writing not to disclose her information to her place of employment via facsimile. (Id. at 2.) Haywood alleges that Novartis acted negligently and/or with reckless indifference when it did so.

         Count One alleges that Novartis was negligent when it “breached its statutory and common law duties of confidentiality and privacy” to Haywood. (Id.) She states that, “[a]s a provider of pharmaceutical services, [Novartis] owes a non-delegable duty to its customers to protect the privacy and confidentiality of their Protected Health Information and personal information.” (Id.) Count Two alleges that Novartis was negligent in its training and supervision of its employees with regard to the protection of customer privacy and confidentiality, and Haywood also claims that Novartis breached its duty to her in the supervision of its employees. (Id. at 2-3.) Count Three alleges that, “[b]y publicizing [Haywood's] disease to her co-workers and supervisors, Novartis committed the common law tort of Public Disclosure of Private Facts.” (Id. at 3.) Count Four requests punitive damages based on the aforementioned acts allegedly committed by Novartis because it “acted with reckless indifference” with regard to Haywood's injuries. (Id. at 3-4.)

         Analysis

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that the parties disagree as to which standard should be applied when evaluating the complaint's sufficiency. Novartis argues that the Court should apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), while Haywood argues that Indiana's notice pleading requirements apply. The Court agrees with Novartis. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “apply to a civil action after it is removed from a state court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(1). The Supreme Court has acknowledged as much, stating “once a case has been removed to federal court, it is settled that federal rather than state law governs the future course of proceedings, notwithstanding state court orders issued prior to removal.” Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Bhd. of Teamsters and Auto Truck Drivers Loc. No. 70 of Alameda Cnty., 415 U.S. 423, 437 (1974); see also Johnson v. Hondo, Inc., 125 F.3d 408, 417 (7th Cir. 1997) (“it is rudimentary that pleading requirements in the federal courts are governed by the federal rules and not by the practice of the courts in the state in which the federal court happens to be sitting”) (internal quotations marks and citations omitted).[1]However, “when the federal standards are heightened over state standards, it is appropriate for the court to order dismissal with the opportunity to replead rather than to dismiss the complaint altogether.” Stuhlmacher v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. 2:10-CV-467, 2011 WL 1792853, at *4 (N.D. Ind. May 11, 2011).

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Johnson v. Rivera, 272 F.3d 519, 520 (7th Cir. 2001). A complaint is not required to contain detailed factual allegations; however, the plaintiff must allege facts that state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). It is not enough that there might be some conceivable set of facts that entitle the plaintiff to relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 553-56 (2007). The plaintiff's obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions. . . .” Id. at 555. The Supreme Court has provided that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss, “a court may consider, in addition to the allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). However, “[w]hen a party presents materials that are not attached to or referred to in the complaint, the court has discretion to exclude the materials or to consider the materials and convert the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment.” U.S. v. Sullivan, No. 10-CR-821-1, 2016 WL 1626622, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 21, 2016) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)); see also Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 583 (7th Cir. 2009) (“district court acted within its discretion when it chose not to convert the defendants' motion under Rule 12(b)(6) to a motion for summary judgment”).

         Counts One and Two - Negligence and Negligent Training and Supervision

         Novartis argues that Counts One and Two fail as a matter of law because Haywood has not properly alleged that Novartis owed her a legal duty. In response, Haywood asserts that Novartis owed her “multiple duties” based on representations on its website and in its marketing materials, based on a statutory duty under Indiana Code section ...


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