SCOTUS Hears Arguments Over the Jurisdiction for BMS’ Plavix Cases

May 3, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday over the jurisdiction for injury cases against Bristol-Myers Squibb related to its Plavix blood thinner.

BMS appealed an August 2016 decision by the California Supreme Court, which ruled that its lower state courts could hear consolidated complaints from out-of-state plaintiffs. The case involves 86 California plaintiffs, plus 575 in 33 other states.

Lawyers representing a San Francisco state court argued that because BMS marketed and sold Plavix in the state and nationwide — as well as contracting with California-based McKesson for distribution — the court had the right to hear cases from nationwide plaintiffs. The California Supreme Court agreed, saying that BMS, headquartered in New Jersey, did not have to be located in California to respond to lawsuits filed there.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan asked BMS representatives why the company, if it is engaged in nationwide commerce, shouldn’t be prepared to defend itself in lawsuits in any of the 50 states. BMS said it did not accept the idea that plaintiffs could file in any state they wanted.

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