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Smith-Marras v. General Nutrition Corp.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

December 9, 2015

RONSONETTE P.C. SMITH-MARRAS, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL NUTRITION CORPORATION; USPLABS, LLC, S.K. LABORATORIES, INC.; DOE DEFENDANTS 1-100, Defendants. RONDEN MARRAS, Plaintiff,
v.
USPLABS, LLC, JONATHAN VINCENT DOYLE an individual, JACOB GEISSLER an individual a/k/a JACOBO GEISSLER, USPLABS OXYELITE, LLC, USPLABS OXYELITE PN, LLC, GNC CORPORATION, and DOES 1-500, Inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND ORDERING CONSOLIDATION OF CASES

Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

Before the Court are: 1) Defendants USPlabs, LLC (“USPlabs”) and General Nutrition Corporation’s (“GNC”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint in Smith-Marras v. General Nutrition Corp., et al., CV 15-00188 LEK-KSC (“CV 15-188 Defendants” and “CV 15-188 Motion”), filed on May 27, 2015; and 2) Defendants USPlabs, Jonathan Vincent Doyle (“Doyle”), Jacob Geissler (“Geissler”), USPlabs OxyElite, LLC (“OxyElite LLC”), USPlabs OxyElite PN, LLC (“OxyElite PN”), and GNC’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint in Marras v. USPlabs, LLC, et al., CV 15-00329 LEK-KSC (“CV 15-329 Defendants” and “CV 15-329 Motion”), filed on September 18, 2015. [CV 15-188, dkt. no. 5; CV 15-329, dkt. no. 6.] Plaintiff Ronsonnette P.C. Smith-Marras (“Smith-Marras”) filed her memorandum in opposition to the CV 15-188 Motion on August 3, 2015, and Plaintiff Ronden Marras filed his memorandum in opposition to the CV 15-329 Motion on November 2, 2015. [CV 15-188, dkt. no. 15; CV 15-329, dkt. no. 10.] The CV 15-188 Defendants filed their reply on November 10, 2015, and the CV 15-188 Defendants filed their reply on November 9, 2015. [CV 15-188, dkt. no. 28; CV 15-329, dkt. no. 12.] These matters came on for hearing on November 23, 2015. After careful consideration of the motions, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the arguments of counsel, the motions are HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below. However, this Court HEREBY CONSOLIDATES CV 15-188 and CV 15-329 with Pavao, et al. v. USPlabs, LLC, et al., CV 14-00367 LEK-KSC (“Pavao”).

BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2015, Smith-Marras filed her Complaint (“CV 15-188 Complaint”) in the State of Hawai`i Circuit Court of the First Circuit. The CV 15-188 Defendants removed the case to this district court based on diversity jurisdiction. [CV 15-188, Notice of Removal, filed 5/20/15 (dkt. no. 1), at ¶ 6.] Ronden Marras filed his Complaint in this district court on August 17, 2015, based on diversity jurisdiction. [CV 15-329, dkt. no. 1 at ¶ 1.]

Both cases arise from the death of Sonnette Marras, who died on or about October 8, 2013, as a result of liver failure allegedly caused by her use of an OxyElite Pro product (“Product”) manufactured by USPlabs and sold by GNC.[1] [CV 15-188 Complaint at ¶¶ 22-23; CV 15-329 Complaint at ¶¶ 49-51.] Sonnette Marras was Smith-Marras’s and Ronden Marras’s mother. [CV 15-188 Complaint at ¶ 2; CV 15-329 Complaint at ¶ 47.]

The CV 15-188 Complaint alleges the following claims: wrongful death; intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”); and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”). [CV 15-188 Complaint at pgs. 5-7.] The CV 15-329 Complaint alleges the following claims: two negligence claims; two claims for strict products liability - manufacturing defect; two claims for strict products liability - design defect; two claims for strict products liability - failure to warn; and two claims for breach of implied warranty. [CV 15-329 Complaint at pgs. 45-72.]

On August 15, 2014, Plaintiffs Keahi Pavao; Derek Kamiya (“Kamiya”), as personal representative of the Estate of Sonnette Marras; Gary Powell (“Powell”), on behalf of and as conservator for M.P.C.F.S.M., a minor child, R.P.O.C.S.S.M., a minor child, M.P.C.I.H.S.M., a minor child, and M.K.C.S.M., a minor child (collectively, “the Minor Children”); Michael Soriano (“Soriano”); and Lance Taniguchi filed their Complaint. [Pavao, dkt. no. 1.] On July 15, 2015, they filed their First Amended Complaint (“Pavao Amended Complaint”). [Id., dkt. no. 172.] The Pavao Amended Complaint also alleges that Sonnette Marras died because of her use of the Product. Sonnette Marras was the Minor Children’s mother, and Soriano’s common-law wife. [Id. at ¶¶ 57-61.]

The CV 15-188 Motion argues that: 1) this Court should dismiss CV 15-188 because it is duplicative of Pavao, and Hawai`i law only provides for a single wrongful death action; and 2) even if Smith-Marras can pursue a separate wrongful death action, this Court should dismiss the CV 15-188 Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The CV 15-329 Motion makes the same arguments regarding CV 15-329. In addition, the CV 15-329 Motion argues that this Court should dismiss the CV 15-329 Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) as to Doyle and Geissler (“the Individual Defendants”) and as to OxyElite LLC and OxyElite PN (“the Subsidiary Defendants”) for lack of personal jurisdiction.

DISCUSSION

I. Hawaii’s Wrongful Death Statute

Hawaii’s wrongful death statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663-3 states:

(a) When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person, the deceased’s legal representative, or any of the persons enumerated in subsection (b), may maintain an action against the person causing the death or against the person responsible for the death. The action shall be maintained on behalf of the persons enumerated in subsection (b), except that the legal representative may recover on behalf of the estate the reasonable expenses of the deceased’s last illness and burial.
(b) In any action under this section, such damages may be given as under the circumstances shall be deemed fair and just compensation, with reference to the pecuniary ...

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