State Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Bayer Corp. for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

In following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Daimlar AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014) and BNSF Railway Company v. Tyrrleo, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017) and the Missouri Court’s earlier opinion in State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W. 3d 41 (Mo. En Banc 227), the Missouri Supreme Court has dismissed claims filed in the City of St. Louis by nonresident plaintiffs against Bayer Corp. and several subsidiaries for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The plaintiffs in this case had initiated an action against Bayer in St. Louis City Circuit Court to recover damages for personal injuries they allegedly experienced from their use of Essure, a medical device that Bayer manufactures and distributes. The case named 92 plaintiffs, but only seven were Missouri residents. The remaining 85 plaintiffs are not Missouri residents and do not allege they used Essure in Missouri or that they were injured in the state.

None of the Bayer defendants is incorporated in or has a principal place of business in Missouri; thus, these defendants are not “at home” in Missouri.

Bayer moved to dismiss the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims or, alternatively, to sever and transfer those claims to appropriate venues, maintaining that Bayer was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri with respect to the nonresident plaintiffs.

The nonresident plaintiffs argued that there was specific and general jurisdiction over Bayer because Bayer consented to “jurisdiction in the state by way of registering to do business there and also engaged in substantial business activities in the state and derived substantial revenue in Missouri by marketing Essure to women in Missouri. These nonresident plaintiffs argued in their response to the motion to dismiss that Bayer was subject to “piggy-back” specific jurisdiction with respect to the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims because “Bayer does not challenge personal jurisdiction as to the Missouri plaintiffs’ claims and that the non-Missouri plaintiffs allegedly were implanted with the same product, but the defendants marketed and sold in Missouri and were injured by the same conduct allegedly injuring the Missouri plaintiffs.

The Missouri Supreme Court rejected all of these arguments. The Missouri high court held that a defendant cannot be subject to general jurisdiction in the state where it is neither incorporated nor has its principal place of business, unless it is an “exceptional case” rendering a corporation “essentially at home in the forum.”

A corporation that operates in many places can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them. Bayer’s contacts in Missouri do not give rise to general personal jurisdiction. It is not incorporated in nor does it have its principal place of business in Missouri. Plaintiffs allege Bayer does substantial business in the state, but the Daimlar, BNSF, and Norfolk cases held this is insufficient to provide general jurisdiction in Missouri; it is simply not enough to render Bayer “at home” here.

Plaintiffs have failed to show Missouri has general jurisdiction over Bayer. The court also rejected the argument that Bayer consented to personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in the state, noting that Daimlar and Norfolk explicitly rejected the notion that by registering to do business in Missouri and appointing registered agents here, a company consents to personal jurisdiction in this state.

The high court also rejected the “piggy-back” argument, pointing out that the U.S. Supreme Court in Bristol-Myers Squibb rejected such an argument. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained and ingested [the drug] in California and allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the nonresidents, does not allow the state to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claim because what is needed and what is missing here is the connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.”

The Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider whether the nonresident plaintiffs will file an amended petition alleging another jurisdiction theory that Missouri has specific jurisdiction over these plaintiffs. The amended petition has not yet been filed. The court explained that it is up to the circuit court in the first instance to consider whether the proposed amended petition should be filed, whether the jurisdiction or discovery requested by the plaintiffs is appropriate and whether a protective order is necessary to limit its nature and extent.

State ex rel. Bayer Corporation v. Hon. Joan L. Moriarty, No. SC 96189, (En Banc 12-19-17).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product liability lawsuits, pharmaceutical defect cases, medical device defect lawsuits and medical negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bolingbrook, Bensenville, Oak Lawn, Oak Park, Rosemont, Homewood, Highwood, Highland Park, Wheaton, St. Charles, Geneva, Zion, Chicago (Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Lakeview, Old Town Triangle, South Shore, Pill Hill, Printer’s Row), Waukegan, Glencoe and Glenview, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman, has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri Bar since 1976.

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