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Teater v. Pfizer, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 17, 2013

TERESA E.A. TEATER, Plaintiff,
PFIZER, INC., et al., Defendants.

Teresa E.A. Teater, Omaha, NE, Pro Se Plaintiff.

Eric J. Neiman, David C. Campbell, WILLIAMS, KASTNER & GIBBS PLLC, Portland, OR.

Mark S. Cheffo, Catherine B. Stevens, QUINN EMANUEL URQUHART & SULLIVAN, LLP, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendants.


DENNIS J. HUBEL, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is a cost bill filed by Defendants Pfizer, Inc. ("Pfizer") and Warner-Lambert Company LLC ("Warner-Lambert") (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants seek to recover a total of $7, 206.04 in costs from Plaintiff Teresa Teater ("Plaintiff"). Alternatively, Defendants ask the Court to declare Plaintiff a vexatious litigant and enter an order enjoining her from filing any further lawsuits without first obtaining permission from the Court.

Plaintiff objects to the imposition of any costs based on her financial status and inability to pay. Plaintiff represents to the Court that, during the course of this litigation, she has been living off of Social Security benefits and food stamps. These benefits total approximately $1, 249 per month and are used to cover Plaintiff's necessary living expenses, such as food, rent ($565 a month), utilities (electricity and gas), insurance (car and renter's), and medical costs. In the event the Court awards costs to Defendants, Plaintiff proposes a payment schedule of $25 per month based on her economic circumstances.

For the reasons that follow, I recommend the Court deny Defendants' cost bill.


On May 3, 2005, Plaintiff brought this action pro se to recover damages for alleged personal injuries suffered as a result of her ingestion of Defendants' prescription drug Neurontin. On October 19, 2005, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation signed a conditional transfer order transferring this case from the District of Oregon to the consolidated proceedings in the District of Massachusetts. Nearly six years later, on May 6, 2011, the Multidistrict Panel issued a conditional remand which remanded Plaintiff's case to this Court.

On June 21, 2011, the Court appointed pro bono counsel for Plaintiff and subsequently granted Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint on March 7, 2012, and were partially successful. However, Plaintiff was given another opportunity to amend her complaint and she did so on November 8, 2012. In her second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged claims for negligence, breach of warranty, strict liability, fraud, violation of Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act ("UTPA"), OR. REV. STAT. ยง 646.605, and unjust enrichment. Defendants moved for summary judgment soon thereafter.

On November 14, 2012, Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion to terminate their on-going pro bono representation, which was the Court imposed deadline for the parties to disclose all expert witnesses. Two days later, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff failed to disclose an expert witness to testify as to specific causation. On February 5, 2013, the Court convened a telephone hearing on pro bono counsels' motion to withdraw. Defendants' counsel agreed to the Court conducting a portion of the hearing on a sealed ex parte basis. Plaintiff's counsel voiced concerns regarding continued representation of Plaintiff. The Court was also advised about a lack of funds to retain or depose experts. Ultimately, the motion to withdraw was denied after Plaintiff and her counsel agreed that a variant of the briefing scheme established in State v. Balfour, 311 Or. 434 (1991), could be employed at the summary judgment stage of this proceeding.

On February 6, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel obtained the expert discovery that occurred during the consolidated MDL pretrial proceedings before Judge Patti Saris in the District of Massachusetts. Two days later, Plaintiff filed a motion to enlarge time to file expert designations pursuant to Rule 6(b). In accordance with prior representations to the Court, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's motion to enlarge in their reply in further support of their motion for summary judgment, which was filed on March 28, 2013.

On May 13, 2013, the Court entered a Findings and Recommendation, in which it recommended that both Plaintiff's motion to enlarge time and Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. Essentially, the Court's recommendation on Defendants' motion for summary judgment was based on: (1) Defendants pointing to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of Plaintiff's claims, namely specific causation; and (2) Plaintiff failing to come forward with evidence that would be sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. On June 6, 2013, Judge ...

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