Following the restriction placed on general jurisdiction by the U.S. Supreme Court in Daimler AG v. Bauman (2014) ___ U.S. ___ [134 S.Ct. 746] (Daimler), the California Supreme Court will address the scope of general and specific jurisdiction. California is a target jurisdiction, and mass product cases often include more out-of-state plaintiffs than California residents. Bristol Myers v. Superior Court, is such a case, with Bristol Myers, itself a non-California resident, attempting to quash service by the non-California plaintiffs, who outnumbered California residents 575 to 84. The trial court found general jurisdiction over Bristol Myers based on its extensive California contacts. The Court of Appeal summarily denied Bristol Myers’ petition at the same time Daimler announced that general jurisdiction only applied where a corporation was “at home.” The California Supreme Court ordered further consideration of Bristol Myers, and, in light of Daimler, the Court of Appeal found no basis for general jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal opinion is here.

While not previously ruled on, the Court of Appeal then found specific jurisdiction over the non-resident claims. The court found that Bristol Myers had “purposefully directed” extensive sales activities at California, establishing “minimum contacts” regarding Plavix, the drug at issue. The court also found that the claims of the out-of-state plaintiffs were related to Bristol Myers’ activities in California, since they were the same claims regarding the same product as those brought by the California residents, for whom jurisdiction was conceded. The court cited various cases for the proposition that the critical focus was on the nexus between the defendant, the forum and the litigation, with the plaintiff’s residence only a secondary consideration. Ultimately, the test is whether the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable and consistent with fair play and substantial justice, and the Court of Appeal found that it was.

Despite the apparent lack of a standing conflict among the courts of appeal, the California Supreme Court granted review on the issues of general and specific jurisdiction. Whether viewed as a relative burden on the limited resources of California courts, or from the concern of defendants trying to limit increasing forum-shopping opportunities by plaintiffs, this issue has significant consequences for mass tort litigation.

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