March 10, 2017 Articles

Exploring the Limits of Specific Jurisdiction

Carolyn R. Davis and Allison H. Semaya

Earlier this year, in a controversial 4–3 decision, the California Supreme Court held that a global biopharmaceutical company was subject to specific jurisdiction in California despite the absence of a causal link between the defendant’s contacts with that forum and the plaintiffs’ claims. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 377 P.3d 874 (Cal. 2016). The holding in Bristol-Myers Squibb carries broad implications for litigants nationwide because it would expand the limits of a court’s ability to exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of certiorari to review the California Supreme Court’s judgment, and, unsurprisingly, several amici curiae, including representatives of a broad range of products manufacturers and distributors, have weighed in to express their support for Bristol-Myers’s petition. On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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