As a term of his probation, a man submitted his urine to the defendant drug and alcohol screening company for an Ethyl Glucuronide/Ethyl Sulfate (EtG/EtS) Test, which indicates the presence of the metabolites of ethanol. The presence of these metabolites over a certain amount indicates the intentional consumption of alcohol. The man’s urine test indicated the presence of metabolites above the amount established by the State of Minnesota indicating that he intentionally consumed alcohol in violation of his terms of probation.
The probation office filed a violation against the man and took him into custody. The man denied that he had been drinking alcohol arguing that the test was positive due to incidental exposure to alcohol. Four and a half months later a state court judge at his probation violation hearing determined that he should be released because there was credible evidence that the test was positive only due to incidental exposure to alcohol.
The man sued the drug and alcohol screening company in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota under Minnesota state law for violations of the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), Minn.Stat. § 325F.69, subd. 1; violations of the Minnesota False Statement in Advertising Act (“FSAA”), Minn.Stat. § 325F.67; and common-law negligence. The defendant company filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the defendant company's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff appealed.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota because the plaintiff lacked Article III standing to raise the state statutory claims in federal court, and because his negligence claim failed to state a claim. The plaintiff lacked standing to raise the CFA and FSAA claims because he failed to show a direct causal relationship between his detention after the test and the company’s alleged misleading statements about its testing.
The plaintiff did have Article III standing to raise the common-law negligence claim. He alleged that his injuries occurred because the defendant company's test results were less than reliable and because the company failed to warn him of its known false positive rate. His injuries were actual, could be traceable to company's alleged acts, and would be redressable by a verdict in his favor.
However, the plaintiff’s negligence claim was properly dismissed because he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. To determine whether a duty exists under Minnesota law the court assesses the relationship of the parties and the foreseeability of the risk involved. The court held that the testing company owed no duty to the plaintiff to warn him of the company’s known false positive rate. The testing company did not owe the defendant a general duty of reasonable care. It only owed him a duty of reasonable care with regard to properly handling the tests and accurately detecting and reporting the presence of metabolites.
See: Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, Inc., 2012 WL 3600279 (C.A.8 (Minn.), August 23, 2012) (not designated for publication).