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Lemley v. Red Bull North America, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Sabannah Division.

May 16, 2017

ANN EDENFIELD LEMLEY, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of WILLIAM JACOB WADE, Deceased, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court in this products liability and wrongful death case is Defendant Red Bull North America, Inc.'s ("Red Bull, Inc.") Motion to Dismiss, dkt. no. 12. For the reasons stated below, it is DENIED.


         The Court assumes the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Red Bull, Inc. designed, manufactured, tested, marketed, and distributed the famous energy drink "Red Bull." Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 2. Red Bull contains caffeine and taurine. Id. ¶ 31. Red Bull, Inc. markets Red Bull as "provid[ing] benefits to consumers in that it 'gives [them] wings' resulting in increased physical and/or mental performance.'' Id. ¶ 25. Red Bull and similar energy drinks have been the subject of media, legal, and medical scrutiny for their supposed role in heart problems-some fatal. Id. ¶¶ 10-23.

         Decedent William Jacob Wade started drinking four twelve-ounce cans of Red Bull a day beginning in 2009. Id. ¶ 6. He did so on August 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM, then again the next morning. Id. ¶ 7. Thereafter, he was found unresponsive. Id. He was pronounced dead due to aortic dissection at 2:00 PM on August 8, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 7-8.

         Plaintiff Ann Edenfield Lemley filed this suit on February 23, 2017. Dkt. No. 1. She alleged strict-liability design defect and failure to warn; negligent design, manufacture, and sale; negligent failure to warn; fraud; and wrongful death. See generally id.

         Red Bull, Inc. moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim on March 24, 2017. Dkt. No. 12. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for decision. Dkt. Nos. 12-1, 18, 20.


         A complaint must be "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It must go beyond "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It has to "contain inferential allegations from which [the court] can identify each of the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 684 (11th Cir. 2001) . "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. They must send a case across the threshold from possibility to plausibility. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         Red Bull, Inc.'s motion to dismiss will be denied. Red Bull, Inc.'s only arguments are that the complaint is a shotgun pleading and it does not adequately plead fraud. Neither contention succeeds.


         Red Bull, Inc. unpersuasively characterizes the complaint as an improper shotgun pleading. Dkt. No. 12-1 at 8-9. Specifically, Red Bull, Inc. says the complaint improperly has each count "incorporate[ ] by reference all preceding and all subsequent paragraphs." Id. at 8; see also Dkt. No. 20 at 5. That accusation does line up with one of the four species of shotgun pleadings recently recognized by the Eleventh Circuit. Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir. 2015) . But it misses what is actually wrong with a shotgun pleading-that such a complaint "fail[s] to one degree or another, and in one way or another, to give the defendant[ ] adequate notice of the claims against [it] and the grounds upon which each claim rests." Id. at 1323. Here, the complaint just "provides a detailed factual background, and then reincorporates that background . . . into each count. The allegations are not so vague that Defendants cannot respond, " and they are "properly separated" into different counts. Homonai v. City of Fruitland Park, No. 5:16-CV-610, 2017 WL 1495806, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 26, 2017). Thus, the complaint is not a shotgun pleading. See id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) ("A statement in a pleading may be adopted by reference elsewhere in the same pleading . . . ."); Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1326 (3d ed.) ("Facts alleged in connection with one count, defense, or paragraph may be incorporated by reference in a different count, defense, or paragraph of the same pleading. . . . When the pleader asserts several claims for relief or defenses that rest on a common factual pattern, incorporation by reference eliminates any unnecessary repetition of the transactions and events upon which the pleader relies." (footnotes omitted)).

         II. THE FRAUD CLAIM ...

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