Calif. Jurisdiction Upheld Over Out-of-State Plavix Plaintiffs

Calif. Jurisdiction Upheld Over Out-of-State Plavix Plaintiffs Photo: Wikipedia

California courts have jurisdiction over 575 out-of-state plaintiffs suing Bristol-Myers Squibb for alleged defects in Plavix, the California First District Court of Appeal has ruled.

Plavix cases involving 84 California plaintiffs and the out-of-state plaintiffs have been coordinated in the San Francisco Superior Court. BMS is headquartered in New York.

This was the second time the intermediate appellate court considered the issue of jurisdiction in the coordinated Plavix cases. The California Supreme Court returned the case to the Court of Appeal to consider the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman on general jurisdiction.

On remand, the intermediate appellate court found that California does not have general all-purpose jurisdiction over the out-of-state plaintiffs, according to the opinion from Judge Steven A. Brick, an Alameda County Superior Court judge assigned to the Court of Appeal.

General jurisdiction should only be asserted when the evidence indicates the defendant is “essentially at home” in the state, and the plaintiffs did not generate discovery to establish that BMS is incorporated, has its principal place of business or has its headquarters in California, the court said.

However, the court said that the California judiciary has specific jurisdiction over the drugmaker.

Under the flexible specific jurisdiction test from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, Brick opined that “BMS has engaged in substantial, continuous economic activity in California, including the sale of more than a billion dollars of Plavix to Californians. That activity is substantially connected to the [plaintiffs'] claims, which are based on the same alleged wrongs as those alleged by the California resident plaintiffs,” the court said.

According to the opinion, the Californian Supreme Court has set out a specific jurisdiction test concerning a substantial connection between a defendant’s activity in the sate and the plaintiffs’ claims.

The substantial connection between the out-of-state plaintiffs’ claims and BMS’ contacts with California include its distribution of Plavix in many states, including in California, the Court of Appeal said.

BMS also has hundreds of employees in California and five offices and facilities, the court added.

The issue may be one of first impression, according to the panel, since “no California or federal case has been cited to us, and we have found none, in which this type of relationship between a non-resident corporate defendant, its very extensive California contacts, and the plaintiffs’ claims has been examined.”

McKesson Corporation, which is headquartered in San Francisco, also is a named defendant in the case.

All of the plaintiffs allege both defendants marketed Plavix as providing greater cardiovascular benefits and being easier on people’s digestive systems than aspirin. But, according to the plaintiffs, Plavix has increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, internal bleeding, blood disorders and death.

Amaris Elliott-Engel is a contributor to law.com.

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