Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

California May Try Plavix Liability Cases

Pharmaceutical giant, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., must face nearly 700 personal injury claims related to blood-clotting drug Plavix in California, even though a majority of the claims come from non-California residents, a divided state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The California high court ruled 4-3 that the state court in San Francisco has jurisdiction to oversee the cases even though BMS is not headquartered or incorporated in the state.

Some 86 Californians and 592 residents of 33 other states sued BMS and McKesson Corp., a pharmaceutical distributor headquartered in Oakland, for injuries allegedly as a result of Plavix use.

The lawsuits claim users suffered from bleeding, bleeding ulcers, gastrointestinal and cerebral bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and even death.

The lawsuits allege product liability for design and manufacturing defects, negligence, breach of warranty, concealment, fraud and misleading advertising, among other allegations.

Cases from around the country have been coordinating in San Francisco Superior Court. BMS sought to throw the cases alleging California courts lacked jurisdiction over the 592 out-of-state cases.

“BMS cannot establish unfairness,” of California jurisdiction, concluded Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for the majority.

“Balancing the burdens imposed by this mass tort action, and given its complexity and potential impact on the judicial systems of numerous other jurisdictions, we conclude that the joint litigation of the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims with the claims of the California plaintiffs is not an unreasonable exercise of specific jurisdiction over defendant BMS,” she said.

In dissent, Justice Kathryn Werdegar said she could not find evidence of contacts with California that “bear a substantial connection to the claims of these nonresidents.”

She was joined by Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Case: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Sup. Ct. San Francisco, S221038

Click to access S221038.PDF

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