SCOTUS sides with Bristol-Meyers Squibb
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on a case that makes it harder for multiple people to bring their mass or class actions in one state court. A mass or class action involves people who suffer from the same general injuries that were caused by the same person or company. In this case, Bristol-Myers Squibb was selling a drug, Plavix, which damaged many people’s health. Hundreds of people from 33 states wanted to sue Bristol-Meyers, and they all wanted to bring their claims together in California court. However, many of them did not live in California, they were not prescribed Plavix in California, nor did they suffer any harm there. When you have this little contact with a state, it becomes very hard to establish jurisdiction, meaning it will be difficult to bring a lawsuit in that state court.
The general rule for bringing a lawsuit against a company in a specific state requires either that their injury take place there or there is some connection between that state and the company. You can also bring a lawsuit against a company in the state where they do most of their business or where they have their headquarters. In the case brought to the Supreme Court today, the plaintiffs were made up of California residents and non-California residents. These people thought that because they were all harmed by the same drug, same company, and had similar injuries, that they could bring all their lawsuits together in California. However, the Court did not agree with this. The Court said that there was no connection between the non-residents and California because their injuries occurred in different states and they were not prescribed the Plavix in California. Even though Bristol-Meyers sold Plavix there, that was not a strong enough connection for a non-resident to bring a lawsuit.
This ruling has a major effect on the hundreds or thousands of people who suffer similar injuries that want to file one lawsuit against a company. It will make it nearly impossible to bring a nationwide action in state court against a company who does most of its business in a state other than where the plaintiffs live. It will force people to bring separate lawsuits in separate courts, even though the issues they are arguing will be the same. It may come as no surprise that people will not want to do this because their claims are worth little on their own, but if they are allowed to bring it with other people, their claims will be worth a lot more. It will be interesting to see what effect this ruling will have on future class actions and how nationwide lawsuits are brought to court.