In the case of Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, the Court overturned a decision from the California Supreme Court that would have allowed a class action suit by more than 600 people harmed by the drug Plavix to go forward in California. Despite the fact that 86 of the plaintiffs were California residents and that BMS had sold $900 million worth of Plavix in the state between 2006 and 2012, the high court said that was not enough of a connection to give California courts jurisdiction over BMS in this case. The court suggested the nationwide class action could be filed in New York, where BMS is headquartered, or Delaware, where it is incorporated. It also opined that the plaintiffs could file suit in their own home states with a group of class members from the same state.
In the case of BNSF Railway v. Tyrrell, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Montana Supreme Court that would have allowed two plaintiffs – one from South Dakota and one from North Dakota – to sue the railroad in Montana state court under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. While BNSF has more than 2,000 miles of track and 2,000 employees in Montana, it is headquartered in Texas and incorporated in Delaware. The plaintiffs are not residents of Montana, nor did their injuries occur there. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined, the case did not have sufficient connection to Montana for it to be properly filed there.
These two cases represent important limitations on the authority of state courts to hear cases against corporations that are not principally located or incorporated in their state – especially when the plaintiff in a case is not a resident of that state. Selecting the right court in which to litigate your case can mean the difference between winning and losing. That’s why – no matter which side you’re on — it’s more important than ever to have experienced lawyers on your side, who will fight for you every step of the way.