United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge.
a civil action filed by a pro se litigant. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and District of South Carolina
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), the undersigned is
authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro
se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to
the district court.
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro
se complaint filed in this case. This court is required
to liberally construe pro se complaints.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such
pro se complaints are held to a less stringent
standard than those drafted by attorneys. Id.;
Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.
1978). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro
se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read
the pleadings to state a valid claim on which plaintiff could
prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not
rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never
presented, construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for
him, or conjure up questions never squarely presented to the
court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274,
1278 (4th Cir. 1985); Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d
411 (7th Cir. 1993); Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d
1128 (10th Cir. 1999).
requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the
court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a
federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir.1990) (The
“special judicial solicitude” with which a
[court] should view such pro se complaints does not transform
the court into an advocate.). Moreover, even when the filing
fee is paid, the court possesses the inherent authority to
ensure that a plaintiff has standing, that federal
jurisdiction exists, and that a case is not frivolous.
Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406 (4th Cir.
district courts are vested with the inherent power to control
and protect the administration of court proceedings.
White v. Raymark Indus., Inc., 783 F.2d 1175, 1177
(4th Cir. 1986). The court has the power to consider sua
sponte whether venue is proper. See Jensen v.
Klayman, 115 Fed.Appx. 634, 635-36 (4th Cir. 2004)(per
allegations revolve around issues regarding the Settlement
Agreement of diet drug litigation. In 1997, certain diet
drugs were removed from the market based on information
suggesting a connection between the drugs and development of
vascular heart disease. In 1997, the Judicial Panel on
Multidistrict Litigation established an MDL proceeding in the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania and transferred pending
federal diet drug cases. Thousands of additional diet drug
cases have since been transferred to the MDL Court as
tag-along cases. In re Massachusetts Diet Drug
Litig., 338 F.Supp.2d 198, 199-200 (D. Mass. 2004).
1999, American Home Products reached a nationwide class
action settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, which the
MDL Court approved in August 2000. Brown v. Am. Home
Prods. Corp. (In re Diet Drugs (Phentermine, Fenfluramine,
Dexfenfluramine) Prods. Liab. Litig.), Nos. 1203,
99-20593, 2000 WL 1222042 (E.D. Pa. Aug.28, 2000). The
plaintiff class was comprised of approximately six million
people in the United States. The settlement agreement created
a structure to compensate class members who were harmed by
the diet drugs. “The United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has original
jurisdiction over all provisions of the Settlement Agreement
including the creation and operation of the Settlement Trust
and the award of attorneys' fees and reimbursement of
litigation expenses, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Ex.
P-3 at 130 of 148.).” In re Diet Drugs, at
MDL/Eastern District of Pennsylvania court found that the
provisions regarding processing and administration of claims
was fair and reasonable as it precisely defined the criteria
necessary for a class member to qualify for benefits and
“[w]ith respect to Matrix benefits, claims
administrators are essentially bound to accept the
certification of a qualified board-certified physician
regarding a claimant's medical condition when that
certification is accompanied by appropriate information on
the claim form. These provisions serve to protect against the
insertion of subjective judgment on the part of the claims
administrators in making benefits determinations. Second, the
audit and appeal procedures protect against fraud and the
misuse of Settlement funds.” In re Diet Drugs,
alleges he was appointed POA for the specific purpose of
dealing with diet drug claim litigation by claimant Larrieu.
(ECF No. 1-1 at 1). Plaintiff asserts the Defendant's
auditing cardiologist stepped out of standard methodology to
downgrade qualifying(under a higher paying Matrix) scan of
moderate mitral regurgitation. Plaintiff alleges claims for
monetary damages. Plaintiff alleges Defendant erroneously
calculated settlement on Matrix B. (ECF No. 1 at 5).
Plaintiff requests “the Judge either mandate the Trust
[to] have Dr. Dent read the two minute echo or denote a Level
III cardiologist of his/her choosing to determine the mitral
valve regurgitation (M) percentage.” (ECF No. 1-1 at
5). Plaintiff attaches a blank claim form, matrix
information, and orders from the MDL court.
to the United States District Court for the Eastern District
of Pennsylvania is appropriate in this case in the interests
of justice. 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). It is clear from the
MDL court orders that the United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has original and
exclusive jurisdiction over all provisions and operation of
the Settlement Agreement. In re Diet Drugs, at *33.
“Without affecting the finality of this Final Order and
Judgment in any way, the court hereby retains continuing and
exclusive jurisdiction over this action and each of the
Parties, including AHP and the class members, to administer,
supervise, interpret and enforce the Settlement in accordance
with its terms; to supervise the operation of the Settlement
Trust; to determine applications for and make reasonable
awards of attorneys' fees and reimbursement of costs to
Class and Subclass Counsel, the Plaintiffs' Management
Committee, and others for work contributing to the common
benefit of the class; and to enter such other and further
orders as are needed to effectuate the terms of the
Settlement.” In re Diet Drugs, *72.
allegations directly involve provisions of the Settlement
Agreement regarding Matrix determinations and cardiologist
audits, which are specifically mentioned in the MDL
court's order, which contained the exclusive jurisdiction
provision. Moreover, Plaintiff relies on attachments to the
Complaint regarding the Matrix and claim forms, which further
demonstrates how the allegations are directly related to
matters that were ordered to be within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the MDL court.
MDL context, where the concerns are similar, transfer served
the interests of justice, judicial efficiency, and
consistency, especially where the action is complex and the
transferee district is “readily familiar with the
underlying issues” and “has already spent
considerable time and effort coordinating the pretrial
proceedings.” In re Welding Rod Prods. Liability
Litigation, 406 F.Supp.2d 1064, 1067 (N.D. Cal. 2005).
Here, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's MDL case
regarding diet drugs has an active and open docket dating
back to 1999 with over 5, 000 filings made, with the most
recent order being in May 2019. Such district court would be
readily familiar with Plaintiff's allegations and the
applicable provisions of the Settlement Agreement and has
definitively spent 20 years coordinating such MDL action.
Deferring to the MDL court is most appropriate where issues