April 24, 2019 Articles

A Post-BMS Test for Avoiding “Loose and Spurious” Forms of General Personal Jurisdiction

If the claimed forum contact could be asserted by any plaintiff, no matter where that plaintiff resides, then it cannot be the kind of contact that causes a claim to “arise from” or “relate to” the forum state.

By James M. Beck

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (BMS), 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the California Supreme Court’s expansive view of specific (“case-linked”) personal jurisdiction in mass tort cases. The specific jurisdiction standard that BMS applied—that “the suit must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts with the forum”—has existed for decades. Id. at 1780. BMS cited cases from the mid-1980s, but its antecedents go back to the seminal decision in International Shoe v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). While some lower courts (and some defense amici in BMS) have interpreted that requirement as requiring “causation,” the Supreme Court did not have to reach that question.

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