Court Again Limits Forum-Shopping In Suits Against Nationwide Companies

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco City, a number of users of the drug Plavix sued the maker in California for alleged health problems caused by the drug, despite the fact that hardly any of the users lived in that state, and Bristol-Myers being incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. None of the plaintiffs claimed to have bought Plavix in California, or suffered damage there. The California Supreme Court held that its courts had jurisdiction over the claims, but the Court, in an 8-1 decision by Justice Alito, reversed. Since there was no “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy,” or even a single action occurring in the state, California’s courts had no specific jurisdiction over the case. Bristol-Myers’ decision to contract with a California company to distribute Plavix nationally did not provide personal jurisdiction in the state either. The plaintiffs would either have to sue in their home state(s), or where Bristol-Myers was incorporated or headquartered. Justice Sotomayor dissented, arguing that there was nothing unfair in her view for a “massive corporation” to be sued in any State for its nationwide course of conduct. A link to the opinion is here.