United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
STEPHEN P. HACALA, Individually and as Administrator of the ESTATE OF STEPHEN PATRICK HACALA, JR., deceased PLAINTIFF
AMAZON.COM, INC., et al DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendant Sincerely Nuts, Inc.'s
(“Sincerely Nuts”) motion to dismiss (Doc. 30)
and brief in support (Doc. 31) and Defendant Amazon.Com,
Inc.'s (“Amazon”) motion to dismiss (Doc. 32)
and a brief in support (Doc. 33). Plaintiff Stephen P.
Hacala, (“Plaintiff”) filed a response (Doc. 36)
to Sincerely Nuts's motion, to which Sincerely Nuts filed
a reply (Doc. 42). Plaintiff also filed a response to
Amazon's motion (Doc. 35) and Amazon filed a reply (Doc.
45). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
Sincerely Nuts and Amazon seek dismissal of Plaintiff's
entire second amended complaint for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons,
the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.
case arises out of the death of Stephen Patrick Hacala, Jr.
(“Hacala”). Hacala was found dead in his
apartment on April 3, 2016. An autopsy revealed the cause of
death was “accidental morphine intoxication.”
(Doc. 26, p. 5). Although no morphine was found at
Hacala's apartment, a 5-pound bag of unwashed poppy seeds
and a 33-fluid ounce bottle containing rinsed poppy seeds
poppy seeds found at Hacala's apartment were allegedly
sold and supplied by Sincerely Nuts and Amazon. Sincerely
Nuts is an “importer, manufacturer, assembler, seller,
and distributor of nuts and seeds.” (Doc. 26, p. 2).
Sincerely Nuts sells the poppy seeds through Amazon, a
“worldwide seller and distributor of products.”
(Doc. 26, p. 3). Hacala allegedly ordered a 5-pound bag of
Sincerely Nuts's poppy seeds from Amazon on or about
March 18, 2016. The poppy seeds were shipped to Hacala on
March 20, 2016.
alleges Hacala made and consumed poppy seed tea with the
unwashed poppy seeds purchased from Sincerely Nuts and Amazon
on April 2, 2016 or April 3, 2016. Plaintiff further alleges
Hacala consumed poppy seed tea as a sleep aid because of a
history of insomnia. Dr. Erickson, the Deputy Chief Medical
Examiner for the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, found the
source of morphine that killed Hacala was “very likely
commercially available poppy seeds.” (Doc. 26, p. 5).
the uses of unwashed poppy seeds is to make poppy seed tea.
Poppy seed tea is made by pouring liquids over unwashed poppy
seeds to create a rinse, which is then ingested. Amazon's
website displays customer reviews and a question and answer
(“Q&A”) section for the poppy seeds. The
reviews and Q&A section discuss using the Sincerely Nuts
poppy seeds to make poppy seed tea. The reviews state the
poppy seeds are “very potent” and
“wonderful seeds for a good poppy rinse tea.”
(Doc. 26, pp. 4-5). The reviews also explain that poppy seed
tea provides a relaxing and calming effect for consumers.
alleges there is opium latex contained on the seed coats,
which results in the tea containing morphine and codeine. A
study of unwashed poppy seeds has shown it is “possible
to obtain lethal doses of morphine from poppy seed tea if
moderate volumes of tea are consumed.” (Doc. 26, pp.
5-6). In the study, Sincerely Nuts's poppy seeds were
found to contain the highest concentration of morphine.
alleges Sincerely Nuts and Amazon knew or should have known
of the dangers of poppy seed tea because numerous deaths
related to poppy seed tea have occurred and were widely
reported in the news. According to Plaintiff, several
reported deaths occurred prior to Hacala's and many
countries have even banned the sale of poppy seeds because of
their morphine content. Plaintiff alleges that despite the
knowledge of poppy seed related deaths, Sincerely Nuts and
Amazon continue to market and sell unwashed poppy seeds
filed a second amended complaint bringing causes of action
against Sincerely Nuts and Amazon for strict products
liability, negligence, and violations of the Arkansas
Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“ADTPA”), Ark.
Code Ann. § 4-88-101, et seq. Plaintiff also
claims Sincerely Nuts's failure to label seeds with
instructions and warnings breached implied warranties.
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must “accept
as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant
all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the
non-moving party.” Gallagher v. City of
Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting
United States v. Any & All Radio Station Transmission
Equip., 207 F.3d 458, 462 (8th Cir. 2000)). “[A]
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quotations omitted). Pleadings that contain mere
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of the cause of action will not
do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
and Iqbal did not abrogate the notice pleading
standard of Rule 8(a)(2). Rather, those decisions confirmed
that Rule 8(a)(2) is satisfied ‘when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for a
misconduct alleged.'” Hamilton v. Palm,
621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678). Where the facts alleged, taken as true,
“raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence” in support of a plaintiff's claim,
the Court should deny a motion to dismiss. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556.