The importance of the recent Bristol-Myers Squibb case

Charlotte Injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “How much time do I have to file a claim for my personal injuries after an accident?”


Every once in a while an important case comes along that sends the legal system scrambling. Many imagine these cases receive a great degree of fanfare, with names that stick in everyone’s mind. Though that is certainly true in some cases, there are a number of crucially important Supreme Court cases that have tremendous impact on the legal system, which are never widely known outside of the legal community. One example of that is the recently decided Bristol-Myers Squibb case.


Pill-bottle-Charlotte-Injury-Lawyer-Lake-Norman-Wrongful-Death-Attorney-199x300The case is formally known as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (“BMS”), and was only decided this past summer by the Supreme Court. At a fundamental level, the case deals with a relatively unexciting legal principle: jurisdiction. By way of background, there are two forms of jurisdiction: general and specific. General jurisdiction exists when defendants are made to appear in court in their home state to defend claims. In these cases, the fact that the claim was filed in a place where the defendant is based is enough to give the court the authority to hear the case, it does not matter whether the harm suffered by the plaintiff is connected to the forum or not. Specific jurisdiction exists only in those cases where the plaintiff’s claim is connected with the defendant’s contacts to the forum. In BMS, the Supreme Court tackled how much contact the defendant must have in a forum to establish specific jurisdiction.


The BMS case dealt with a product liability claim involving the popular drug Plavix. Plaintiffs claimed the drug was responsible for causing serious injuries and a group of hundreds banded together to sue for damages. In total, 678 plaintiffs filed personal injury claims against the company in a California state. Of these 678 plaintiffs, a surprising 592 were residents of other states. More importantly, these plaintiffs did not argue that they ever received, purchased, were prescribed or were harmed by Plavix in California. BMS is a company legally incorporated in Delaware with its headquarters and principal place of business in New York.


So what were the ties to California? BMS has several research and lab facilities in the state, though none did any specific Plavix research. BMS also has a number of sales people based in the state and a few other teams of employees. That said, as a major pharmaceutical company, this is not a surprise as BMS has employees or facilities in many states. The ties to California were thus unimpressive.


BMS then moved to dismiss the nearly 600 non-resident plaintiffs from the lawsuit, arguing that they lacked proper jurisdiction to bring the case in California state court. The case worked its way through the California courts, with varying decisions. The California Supreme Court ultimately decided that specific jurisdiction existed and said that the few connections that BMS had to California were enough to allow the non-resident plaintiffs to sue.


BMS eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the California decision and held that California courts lacked the specific jurisdiction necessary to hear complaints from the non-resident plaintiffs. The Court said that for specific jurisdiction to exist, the suit must arise out of or relate to a defendant’s contacts with the forum. In this case, there was no clear connection between BMS’s activity in California and the plaintiff’s and thus the case could not proceed with non-resident plaintiffs.


Many experts believe the case will and indeed already has had important impacts on personal injury cases. It is commonplace for plaintiffs to file suit in a particular jurisdiction, combining claims in forums seen as friendly to plaintiffs. This practice has already come under fire from corporation who insist the test for specific jurisdiction laid out in BMS should be applied. Courts have already begun dismissing personal injury cases where defendants do not possess contacts in the forum related to the harm suffered by plaintiffs. Going forward, an important legal battle will likely involve trying to prove that a defendant’s contacts relate to the harm suffered by plaintiffs.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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