TANESSA DESRANLEAU, individually and as the Personal Representative of the ESTATE of JAYBREON DESRANLEAU, Appellant,
HYLAND'S, INC., STANDARD HOMEPATHIC LABORATORIES, INC., and STANDARD HOMEPATHIC COMPANY, and MICHELLE REID, Respondents.
Desranleau appeals the trial court's decision on summary
judgment dismissing her claims against Hyland's, Inc.,
and its parent companies Standard Homepathic Laboratories,
Inc., and Standard Homepathic Company (collectively,
Hyland's) alleging that it caused the death of
Desranleau's infant son Jay'Breon. Desranleau argued
that Hyland's manufacturing process is flawed resulting
in individual tablets containing toxic levels of chemical
components and that Jay'Breon's ingestion of such a
toxic tablet caused his death.
trial court dismissed Desranleau's claims after it
determined that there was no admissible evidence that
Jay'Breon actually ingested Hyland's cold medicine or
that the cold medicine was the probable cause of his death.
Because when viewed in the light most favorable to Desranleau
there are material questions of fact, we reverse the
dismissal of Desranleau's claims under the Washington
Products Liability Act (WPLA), ch. 7.72 RCW. We affirm
dismissal of Desranleau's claims under the Consumer
Protection Act (CPA), ch. 19.86 RCW and her request for
punitive damages under California law.
January 18, 2014, 13-month-old Jay'Breon was found dead
in his crib. Prior to his death, Jay'Breon had been
suffering from a cold, so his caregiver Michelle
Reid-Jay'Breon's father's girlfriend-gave him
cold medicine earlier that morning. At about 6 a.m. on
January 18th, Reid awoke to hear that Jay'Breon's
chest was still congested. She gave him a dose of
children's Tylenol and a banana before going back to
sleep. Reid and Jimi Williams, Jay'Breon's father,
awoke at 9:15 a.m. and saw that Jay'Breon was still
asleep. Reid did not specifically check on him to avoid
waking him up. Reid and Williams were in the living room for
about 30 minutes when Reid went back into the bedroom to get
ready for work. Reid found Jay'Breon face down in his
crib, with his head covered by a blanket. Reid immediately
noticed Jay'Breon was blueish in color and not breathing.
Reid, her roommate Nageisha Tramble, and a neighbor,
attempted to do CPR on Jay'Breon until the ambulance
arrived. By this time, Williams had left the scene. The fire
department attempted CPR on Jay'Breon but determined that
he was deceased. Reid told police officers that "she was
giving [Jay'Breon] Highlands (sic) tablets,
children's cold medicine, for the same amount of time
that he'd been having symptoms of a cold . . . she had
been giving him about 8 tablets per day and that the last
time she gave him 2 tablets was the night prior at [9
p.m.]" Reid fully cooperated with police and consented
to a taped interview.
King County Medical Examiner investigated Jay'Breon's
death. After an autopsy, the medical examiner concluded that
Jay'Breon's body was normally developed, but waited
to determine an official cause of death until his toxicology
screening was finished. The toxicology report for
Jay'Breon came back unremarkable, so the medical examiner
concluded that Jay'Breon's official cause of death
was sudden unexpected infant death.
years later, Desranleau sued Hyland's and Reid.
Desranleau alleged that Hyland's knowingly sold toxic and
dangerous homeopathic medicines for children, the ingestion
of which caused Jay'Breon's death. This, Desranleau
alleged, was a violation of the WPLA and the CPA. Desranleau
requested punitive damages under California law.
manufacturers various types of homeopathic medicines, using
the same general manufacturing process. Hyland's dilutes
various products using a dry-dilution process, where a
quantity of an ingredient is mixed with a "diluent"
over and over again until the desired concentration is
2012, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
informed Hyland's that it was concerned with Hyland's
dilution process related to a separate product. The FDA wrote
that Hyland's dilution process may lead to batch
stratification- where some tablets within a single batch have
significantly higher concentrations of an ingredient than
others. The FDA recommended a liquid dilution process rather
than a dry dilution process. These concerns remained in 2017,
when the FDA again informed Hyland's that it was
concerned with their manufacturing process. The FDA wrote:
You manufacture drug products . . . from ingredients that
pose potentially toxic effects. Specifically, Hyland's
Baby Teething Tablets and Hyland's Baby Nighttime
Teething Tablets contain belladonna and are marketed for
vulnerable patient populations, including infants and
children. . . .
FDA's analysis of samples of your [products]. . . found
that the alkaloid content far exceeded the claim on your
label.... The testing found inconsistency in levels of
belladonna, a toxic substance, and reveals that your
manufacturing process is poorly controlled and may pose
unnecessary risk to infants and children.
the FDA's concerns were specifically related to
stratification of belladonna in Hyland's teething
products, and belladonna is not contained in Hyland's
cold medicines, Hyland's admitted that its manufacturing
process is substantially similar in all of its products.
Therefore, Desranleau alleges that stratification of the
alkaloid gelsemium sempervirens, which can be toxic
in high doses and is found in Hyland's cold medicines,
likely also occurs. The possibility of stratification coupled
with the potential for gelsemium sempervirens to be
toxic in high doses is what Desranleau alleges caused
moved for summary judgment arguing primarily that Desranleau
was unable to provide any admissible evidence that
Hyland's medicines caused Jay'Breon's death.
Hyland's also argued that Desranleau could not recover
punitive damages under either California or Washington law,
and that she could not recover under the CPA.
trial court heard argument on Hyland's motion on April
13, 2018. The court began the hearing by warning "the
most serious issue here is that we don't have admissible
evidence . . . that this child even consumed the
[Hyland's] cold pills." Consistent with its warning,
the court ruled in Hyland's favor upon finding that
Desranleau had not produced any admissible evidence that
"Reid actually provided the Hyland's Tiny Cold
tablets to Jay'Breon."
review summary judgment orders de novo, engaging in the same
inquiry as the trial court. Summary judgment is warranted
only when there is no genuine dispute of material fact and
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
CR 56(c). The facts and all reasonable inferences are viewed
in the light most favorable to the ...