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Williams v. Coca Cola Co.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 21, 2018

CEDRIC WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
COCA COLA CO., Defendant.

          Cedric Williams Cayuga Correctional Facility Plaintiff pro se

          Goldberg, Segalla Law Firm MICHAEL D. SHALHOUB, ESQ. JONATHAN M. BERNSTEIN, ESQ. MATTHEW S. LERNER, ESQ. Attorneys for defendant.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER

          CHRISTIAN F. HUMMEL U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On December 28, 2015, plaintiff pro se Cedric Williams commenced this action against defendant Coca Cola Co. (“Coca Cola”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§1332(a), alleging various state law claims arising from injuries he alleges he sustained as a result of drinking diet Coca- Cola. Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.”). Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 74. Plaintiff filed a response to in opposition. Dkt. No. 74. Defendant filed a reply. Dkt. No. . 85. For the following reasons defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         The facts are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as the nonmoving party. Plaintiff has been confined with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) since November 16, 2010. Compl. at 2. At all times herein relevant, he was housed at the Clinton Correctional Facility (“Clinton C.F.”). Id. In April 2015, Williams received “multiple cans” of diet Coca Cola. Id. After consuming an unspecified amount of diet Coca Cola, plaintiff experienced migraine headaches and “periodic moments of impaired vision.” Id. Plaintiff contends that the aspartame contained in diet Coca Cola he consumed was caused his health problems. See Compl at 2-3. Further, as a result of drinking diet Coca Cola, he “ suffered personal injuries, migraines, vision problems, anxiety caused by his fear of developing cancer, emotional distress, and consequently, insomnia”. Id. at 3. Plaintiff contends that “it's believed plaintiff's emotional injuries are permanent.” Id. Plaintiff's complaint contains claims against defendant for negligence, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Id. at 3-7. Plaintiff demands $2, 000, 000 “for punitive damages”; $3, 000, 000 “for future emotional suffering as a result of continuous fear of developing cancer”; for a Court order directing defendant “to identify and label all decomposition products of food additive (APM), along with amounts, on all of its diet Coca-Cola soft drink labels and/or discontinue use of (APM) unless defendant meets its burdens under Section 09 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 348 to demonstrate that (APM) is safe and functional for use in its diet soft drinks”; a Court order directing defendant “to make an immediate public declaration regarding the inherent health risks posed by (APM) decomposition products contained in its diet Coca-Cola soft drinks on all social media platforms . . . as well as major news networks CNN, CNBC and HLN.” Id. at 7. Plaintiff also demands costs. Id.

         On March 28, 2016, defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, to which plaintiff opposed. Dkt. No. 16; Dkt. No. 20. By Decision and Order filed March 31, 2017, the Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and negligent infliction of emotional harm. Dkt. No. 29 at 11. The Court denied defendant's motion as to plaintiff's claims for negligence, gross negligence, and his demands of injunctive relief and punitive damages. Id. Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Complaint. Id. Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint.

         On May 5, 2017, defendant served an answer to the complaint. Dkt. No. 30. Defendant served an amended answer on May 15, 2017. Dkt. No. 36. On June 2, 2017, the Court conducted a Rule 16 conference. Dkt. Entry dated June 2, 2017. The Court issued a Uniform Pretrial Scheduling Order which provides, among other things, that all discovery be completed by December 29, 2017. Dkt. No. 41 at 1. The Order further directs that ninety days prior to the close of discovery, plaintiff shall identify any experts that may testify at trial and serve any experts written report on defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.”) 26(a)(2)(B). Id. at 2.

         During the course of June 2, 2017 conference, the Court had a lengthy conversation with plaintiff regarding his need to retain an expert or experts, as well as his responsibility to provide expert disclosure. Text Min. Entry dated June 2, 2017; Dkt. No. 91. The Court advised plaintiff that in order to proceed to trial, plaintiff must retain an expert who is qualified to testify in support of his claim that aspartame causes migraine headaches and may cause cancer. Dkt. No. 91 at 15-16. The Court told Plaintiff that “. . . it is your burden to come forward with an expert who is going to say that aspartame, in fact, can cause cancer and can, in fact, cause migraine headaches.” Id. at 16. Plaintiff advised the Court that he understood his obligation to retain such an expert. Id. at 16-17.

         At the June 2, 2017 conference, the Court also discussed with Plaintiff his obligation to provide expert disclosure. Dkt. No. 91 at 20-21. Plaintiff was advised that he was required to file expert disclosure ninety days prior to the close of discovery. Id. at 21. As the deadline for the completion of discovery was December 29, 2017, plaintiff was required to file his expert disclosure by September 29, 2017. Plaintiff told the Court he understood his obligation and would meet those requirements. Id.

         On November 3, 2017, the Court conducted a conference to address various discovery issues with plaintiff and defense counsel. Dkt. Entry dated Nov. 3, 2017. The Court issued a Text Order which, among other things, extended the deadline for the completion of discovery until March 2, 2018. Dkt. No. 69. The Text Order further provided that the Uniform Pretrial Scheduling Order, Dkt. No. 41, as amended remained in full force and effect. Id. As such, plaintiff's expert disclosure was required to be served on defendant ninety days before the March 2, 2018 discovery deadline. Dkt. No. 41.

         On November 13, 2017, defendant filed a motion to compel responses to certain outstanding discovery demands, Dkt. No. 70. Plaintiff filed a response. Dkt. No. 71. On January 10, 2018, the Court conducted a conference to address defendant's motion to compel. Dkt. No. 70. During the conference, the Court again addressed plaintiff's burden of proof and his obligation to provide expert disclosure. Dkt. No. 84. Defense counsel advised the Court that plaintiff had failed to serve expert disclosure by December 4, 2017 as required by the Uniform Pretrial Scheduling Order. Dkt. No. 84 at 12. The Court advised plaintiff that it was his burden of proof to show that defendant was negligent in the use of aspartame in diet Coca Cola and that he was injured as a result of their use of aspartame. Id. at 13. The Court told plaintiff: “[A]s I indicated to you, you need to produce an expert to give that testimony because that is beyond the knowledge of common people.” Id. Plaintiff told the Court that he understood his obligation and was in the process retaining an expert, although he had not yet done so. Id. at 13-14. The Court reminded plaintiff that his expert disclosure was due in December 2017. Id. Plaintiff was further advised that defendant would be making a motion for summary judgment on a number of grounds, one of which was plaintiff's failure to serve expert disclosure. Id.

         On January 16, 2018, defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and Local Rule 56.1 of the Northern District of New York. Dkt. No. 74. Plaintiff filed a response. Dkt. No. ...


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