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Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California Has Serious Impact Moving Forward

The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Vincent J. Ciecka, P.C. want to inform you about a recent Supreme Court case that will affect product liability cases going forward. Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California involves a blood-thinner by the name of Plavix. It was brought to California by over 678 plaintiffs, but only 86 of them are California residents.

According to the SCOTUS 8-1 majority:

“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…does not allow the state to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims.”

This Supreme Court decision is going to have radical ramifications. It significantly alters the governing rules in which a corporate defendant is sued and limits the forum-shopping that were driving “mass action” lawsuits for many years.

Aggressive lawyers for plaintiffs would bring multi-party cases to companies in what is known as a “plaintiff haven,” as opposed to just the state where the company is based. These so-called havens contain local laws or jury pools that are usually hostile towards corporate defendants. This method might not be as effective in the near future. At the same time, it’s difficult to rationalize putting a corporation on trial somewhere just because that place is typically anti- corporations.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers will have to establish a stronger connection between their claims and the applicable jurisdictions. In California, Bristol-Myers Squibb has 250 sales representatives, 5 R&D facilities, about 160 employees, and a government relations office. 187 million Plavix dosages worth over $900 million in revenue were sold in California in six years, and their distributor is California-based. None of that was enough.

The Court ruled that the mass tort didn’t establish specific jurisdiction in California. The link between their claims and the state were insufficient. Now, a nationwide mass action will go to the court of the defendant’s home state. A case can be broken up into multiple single state mass actions. With less mass, the stakes aren’t as high as a nationwide case.

This decision may not directly affect class actions, but it will likely impact mass torts. The difference maker is how a plaintiff in a mass tort is treated as an individual. It won’t be surprising if class action defendants use this decision to pursue dismissal of the individual claims of class members.

It is important for the attorney to file the complaint within the 2 year statute of limitations in order to have punitives in the case, even if they are not aware of any punitive conduct, so don’t hesitate to act. If you need help standing up to big business in product liability case or you need a truck accident lawyer in NJ, give us a call at (856) 283-0509 or email us at contactus@ciecka.com.