Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California

PETITIONER: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
RESPONDENT: Superior Court of California for the County of San Francisco
LOCATION: San Francisco, CA

DOCKET NO.: 16-466
DECIDED BY:
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: US ()
GRANTED: Jan 19, 2017

Facts of the case

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS) is a global pharmaceutical company incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. BMS manufactures Plavix, a prescription drug intended to prevent blood clotting, and markets and sells the drug nationwide, including in California. In addition, BMS maintains five offices in California, four research facilities, and one government affairs office, as well as 250 sales representatives. In eight amended complaints filed with the San Francisco Superior Court, 86 California residents and 575 non-California residents joined in suing BMS and McKesson Corporation, a California-based Plavix distributor, on individual product defect claims. Each alleged serious side effects from their use of Plavix, that BMS had misrepresented the drug’s safety and efficacy, and asserted numerous California product liability causes of action against BMS. BMS moved to dismiss the claims for lack of personal jurisdiction in California. BMS argued that these claims had no link to its California activities, as the nonresident plaintiffs were not injured by Plavix in California, had not been prescribed Plavix in California, and had not received Plavix distributed by McKesson from California. Additionally, BMS did not research or manufacture Plavix at its facilities in California. The trial court denied BMS’s motion and held that the company was subject to the California court’s general jurisdiction because it had “wide-ranging, continuous, and systematic activities in California.” The California Court of Appeal rejected the trial court’s assessment that BMS was subject to general jurisdiction in California, but held that the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims were sufficiently related to BMS’s California activities to support specific jurisdiction. The California Supreme Court affirmed and held that BMS’s nationwide marketing and distribution created a “substantial nexus” between the nonresident plaintiffs’ claims and BMS’s activities in California because the claims were based on the same allegedly defective product and misleading marketing that allegedly caused injury both in and outside of California.

Question

Do a plaintiff’s claims sufficiently arise out of or relate to a defendant’s forum activities to create specific jurisdiction when the plaintiff’s claims would be exactly the same even if the defendant had no forum contacts?