April 16, 2018 Articles

Stream-of-Commerce Personal Jurisdiction Dries Up Following Bristol-Myers Squibb

James M. Beck

Since 2018 began, several decisions have held that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) (BMS), precludes theories of “stream of commerce” (SoC) personal jurisdiction that do not require that a defendant have intentionally availed itself of access to a forum state’s markets.

Under BMS, “case-linked” personal jurisdiction (also called “specific” personal jurisdiction) must “arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts with the forum.” Id. at 1780 (internal quotes omitted) (emphasis original). Where the “relevant conduct occurred entirely” out of state, “the mere fact that this conduct affected plaintiffs with connections to the forum state did not suffice to authorize jurisdiction.” Id. (internal quotes omitted) (emphasis original). Without a plaintiff/case-specific factual link, “specific jurisdiction is lacking regardless of the extent of a defendant’s unconnected activities in the State.” Id. BMS repeatedly cited and followed World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980), the holding of which BMS described as an “isolated occurrence” cannot be capable of supporting jurisdiction where “the defendant carried on no activity” in the state “whatsoever” and one of its products, in a “fortuitous circumstance,” caused injury when it “happened to suffer an accident while passing through” the state. BMS, 137 S. Ct. at 1782.

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