March 06, 2018 Articles

Supreme Court Solidifies Its Position on Personal Jurisdiction

By Chijindu Obiofuma

On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017). The case originated from product-liability claims lodged against Bristol-Myers, stemming from allegations of negative side effects caused by their drug Plavix. In an overwhelmingly majority (8–1) decision, the Court formally restricted the constitutionally defined limits of personal jurisdiction.

Although over 600 product-liability claims were lodged against Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS), only 86 claims were brought by California residents. The remaining 500-plus claims were brought by nonresidents from 33 different states whose claims did not originate in California. Despite that Plavix was neither manufactured nor designed in California, the plaintiffs hoped to tie Bristol-Myers to the forum via drug marketing that was targeted at the state. Each plaintiff brought the same 13 state-related claims under California law, which included claims of products liability, negligent misrepresentation, and misleading advertising.

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