The U.S. Supreme Court has prevented 592 nonresidents from joining 86 California residents in suing Bristol-Myers Squibb in California state court for personal injury allegedly caused by Plavix, a blood thinner. At the state level, the California Supreme Court concluded that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment did not bar the out-of-state residents from suing the corporation, BMS, in state court.
In the vigorous dissent written by Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s majority opinion explained, “The nonresidents were not prescribed Plavix in California, did not purchase Plavix in California, did not ingest Plavix in California and were not injured by Plavix in California.
The mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained and ingested Plavix in California – and allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the nonresidents – does not allow the state to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims.”
But Justice Sotomayor objected to the court’s decision that limits “specific jurisdiction by holding that a corporation that engages in a nationwide course of conduct cannot be held accountable in a state court by a group of injured people unless all of those people were injured in the forum state.”
Justice Sotomayor continued, “A core concern in this court’s personal jurisdiction cases is fairness. And there is nothing unfair about subjecting a massive corporation to suit in a state for a nationwide course of conduct that injures both forum residents and nonresidents alike.”
In the majority opinion, it was stated that our settled principles regarding specific jurisdiction controlled this case. In order for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a claim, there must be an “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, an activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum state.” Goodyear v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915 (2011). When there is no such connection, specific jurisdiction is lacking regardless of the extent of a defendant’s unconnected activities in the state.
For this reason, the California Supreme Court’s “”sliding scale approach” is difficult to square with our precedents. Under the California approach, the strength of the requisite connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue is relaxed if the defendant has extensive forum contacts that are unrelated to those claims. Our cases provide no support for this approach, which resembles a loose and spurious form of general jurisdiction. For specific jurisdiction, a defendant’s general connections with the forum are not enough.
In the present case, the Supreme Court stated that it is illustrative of the danger of the California approach. The California Supreme Court found that specific jurisdiction was present without identifying any adequate link between the state and the nonresidents’ claims. The majority’s opinion and decision was based on the lack of connection between the nonresidents’ claims and the forum (California).
In the dissent, it was stated that three years ago, the court imposed substantial curbs on the exercise of general jurisdiction in its decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014). In this case, the court takes its first step toward a similar contradiction of specific jurisdiction by holding that a corporation that engages in a nationwide course of conduct cannot be held accountable in a state court by a group of injured people unless all of those people were injured in the forum state.
The opinion also stated that, especially in a world in which defendants are subject to general jurisdiction in only a handful of states, the effect of today’s opinion will be to curtail — and in some cases eliminate — plaintiffs’ ability to hold corporations fully accountable for their nationwide conduct. It does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, International Shoe v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), to permit plaintiffs to aggregate claims arising out of a single nationwide course of conduct in a single suit in a single state where some, but not all, were injured. But that is exactly what the Court holds today (in this case) is barred by the Due Process Clause. This is not a rule the Constitution has required before.
Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, 137 S.Ct. 1773 (June 19, 2017).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling pharmaceutical defect lawsuits, hernia mesh defect cases, Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits, hip and knee implant defect lawsuits and medical malpractice cases for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bloomingdale, Forest Park, Elmwood Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Palos Heights, Oak Forest, Calumet Park, Burbank, Prospect Heights, Chicago (Pulaski Park, Rosehill, West Ridge, Hermosa, Polish Village, Humboldt Park, Lawndale, Brighton Park), Hickory Hills, Brookfield and Joliet, Ill.
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