California Embraces Mass Actions

California Embraces Mass Actions In late August, the California Supreme Court issued a precedential decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, holding that California courts could properly exercise specific jurisdiction over a defendant for the purposes of adjudicating nonresident plaintiffs’ claims.

In the mass tort litigation, 86 California residents and 592 residents of 33 other states sued Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co. (“BMS”) for injuries allegedly arising out of the use of Plavix, a prescription drug used to prevent blood clotting.

BMS, which was not incorporated or headquartered in California, argued that the court lacked general and personal jurisdiction over the claims of the 592 nonresident plaintiffs because their allegations did not include any factual claims that their injuries occurred in California or that they had received treatment for their injuries in California.

While the California Supreme Court concluded that BMS was not subject to the general jurisdiction of California courts, it held that it was subject to specific jurisdiction over nonresident plaintiffs’ claims. The Court found that it was reasonable to join claims of California and nonresident plaintiffs because they arose from the same course of conduct, and because BMS had extensive contacts with California, which included “extensive marketing and distribution of Plavix, hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue from Plavix sales, a relationship with a California distributor, substantial research and development facilities, and hundreds of California employees.”

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns this decision, non-California residents who file claims in mass tort actions filed in California state courts will not have their claims excluded.

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