December 02, 2020 Top Story

Jurisdiction over Nationwide Class Actions Is Upheld

Two courts say absent class members are not part of jurisdictional analysis

By Frances Codd Slusarz

In decisions issued a day apart, two federal appellate courts addressed the issue of whether a court can exercise specific jurisdiction over a nationwide class action. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit answered that question in the affirmative in Mussat v. IQVIA, Inc., reasoning that putative class members need not establish personal jurisdiction over a defendant. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that question should not be answered until the class certification stage in Molock v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc., but agreed that absent class members are not part of the jurisdictional analysis. In so holding, both courts declined to extend to class actions the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, which held that a state court lacked jurisdiction over mass tort claims filed by non-resident plaintiffs against a nonresident defendant.

The issue was whether California could exert specific jurisdiction over the defendant for claims involving non-California residents.

The issue was whether California could exert specific jurisdiction over the defendant for claims involving non-California residents.

iStockphoto by Getty Images

The Case That Launched a Thousand Motions to Dismiss

In Bristol-Myers, more than 600 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit asserting California state law claims for injuries suffered from taking a drug manufactured by the defendant. Most of the plaintiffs were not California residents, and California courts did not have general jurisdiction over the defendant. The issue was whether California could exert specific jurisdiction over the defendant for the claims involving plaintiffs who were not California residents.

Bristol-Myers was not a class action. It was a coordinated mass action under California Civil Procedure Code § 404—a procedural device that has no analogue in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court’s analysis, therefore, was straightforward. Applying long-standing principles of due process, the Court determined that California courts could not exercise specific jurisdiction over nonresident plaintiffs because their claims did not arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts with California.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now