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City of Las Vegas v. Purdue Pharma, L.P.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 15, 2020

CITY OF LAS VEGAS, Plaintiff(s),
PURDUE PHARMA, L.P., et al., Defendant(s).


         Presently before the court is plaintiff City of Las Vegas's (“city”) motion to remand to state court. (ECF No. 6). Defendants CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy, Inc., CVS Indiana, L.L.C., CVS Rx Services, Inc. and CVS Tennessee Distribution, L.L.C. (collectively, “defendants”) filed a response (ECF No. 21), to which the city replied (ECF No. 24).

         Also before the court is defendants' motion to stay case pending likely transfer to multidistrict litigation. (ECF No. 20). The city filed a response (ECF No. 23), to which defendants replied (ECF No. 25).

         I. Background

         The instant action arises from the national and widely publicized opioid crisis. The city sued a variety of entities and individuals responsible for manufacturing, marketing, and selling prescription opioids, including Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet and their generic counterparts. (ECF No. 1-2). The city groups the defendants into drug manufacturers (including the individual “Sackler defendants”), wholesale distributors, detailers, pharmacies, and health care providers. Id. at 9-22.

         The city filed suit in the Eighth Judicial District Court, alleging public nuisance under Nevada and common law, negligent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment against all defendants. Id. at 46-57, 60-61. It also alleges negligence against the distributors, pharmacies, and health care providers. Id. at 58-60. Finally, it brings a claim against certain defendants for alleged violations of Nevada's Racketeering Act. Id. at 61-88. Defendants timely removed this action on December 11, 2019. (ECF No. 1).

         This case is unextraordinary. In fact, more than 2, 600 similar cases have been filed by government entities throughout the country. Many of those cases have been transferred to the Northern District of Ohio as part of the multidistrict litigation In re National Prescription Opiate Litig., MDL No. 2804, (“Opiate MDL”).[1]

         On December 23, 2019, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) entered a conditional transfer order (“CTO”), finding that this action appears to “involve questions of fact that are common to the actions previously transferred to the Northern District of Ohio and assigned to Judge Polster.” CTO-127, JPML Dkt. No. 6566. Defendants moved to stay the case until the JPML renders a final decision on whether to transfer this action to the Opiate MDL. (ECF No. 20).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Remand

         “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

         Because the court's jurisdiction is limited by the Constitution and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, “[t]he threshold requirement for removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 is a finding that the complaint contains a cause of action that is within the original jurisdiction of the district court.” Ansley v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 340 F.3d 858, 861 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Toumajian v. Frailey, 135 F.3d 648, 653 (9th Cir. 1998)). Thus, “it is to be presumed that a cause lies outside the limited jurisdiction of the federal courts and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009).

         A plaintiff may challenge removal by timely filing a motion to remand. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). On a motion to remand, the removing defendant must overcome the “strong presumption against removal jurisdiction” and establish that removal is proper. Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.1992) (per curiam)). Due to this strong presumption against removal jurisdiction, the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court. Id.

         B. Stay

         Courts have broad discretion in managing their dockets. See, e.g., Landis v. N. American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936) (courts have the inherent power to “control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel and for litigants”). In exercising that discretion, courts are guided by the goals of securing the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of actions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1.

         III. Discussion

         The first-and virtually dispositive-issue before the court is which motion it should consider first: the motion to remand or the motion to stay.[2] Other federal courts presiding over state-law opioid ...

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