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Plavix blood thinner lawsuit

What is the Bristol-Myers Squibb Ruling, and Why Is it Important?

August 7, 2017
On June 19, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a ruling that, less than two months later, has already had a profound impact on the modern legal landscape.

In the case Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco, SCOTUS ruled that, in a case in which a group of consumers from several states brought tort claims in California state court, that court lacked the jurisdiction over any plaintiffs who did not reside in California.

In this case, a group of plaintiffs filed suit against drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb over the company’s blood-thinning drug Plavix. The plaintiffs alleged that Plavix can cause dangerous hemorrhaging and can inhibit blood clotting, thereby posing serious health risks.

The group of plaintiffs consisted of 86 California residents and 592 residents of 33 other states. The case was filed in California.

None of the people who resided in states other than California made any claims that they had been harmed by a California physician, nor that they had suffered any Plavix-related injuries while in California, nor that they received any treatment for any injuries related to their claims in California.

Neither did Bristol-Myers Squibb develop, market, manufacture, label, or regulate Plavix in California.

The only “California connection” in the case, in fact, was that the company had contracted with a distributor to make Plavix available in the state.

That’s why the Supreme Court, in a ruling that overturned that of the California State Supreme Court, ruled that California courts lacked the jurisdiction to issue rulings on any plaintiffs who live in any other states.

Effectively, the Supreme Court ruled that state courts may hear and rule only on cases filed by residents of their states over alleged infractions that occurred in those same states. State courts do not have the jurisdiction to issue rulings pertaining to residents of other states, even in the case of mass tort cases in which the plaintiffs reside in a number of different states.

Mass tort cases and Multi-District Litigation (MDL) cases are types of lawsuits that unify hundreds or sometimes thousands of individual cases under one legal roof. When that many cases are grouped together, there’s little chance that all the plaintiffs will reside in a single state. Most mass tort and MDL cases consolidate cases from all across the country.

The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are experts in handling mass torts and MDL cases, so the BMS ruling has the potential to significantly impact our clients.

The effects of the Bristol-Myers Squibb case – or BMS, as it has already come to be known – have been swift and far-reaching. Several in-process trials have, in light of the BMS ruling, been halted, put on hold, or otherwise restructured to accommodate the new law of the land.

One prominent example of the effects of the BMS ruling occurred in Philadelphia about a month after SCOTUS announced its decision. The case concerned three (of several) lawsuits that alleged that the pelvic mesh devices made by medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific were dangerously injurious. Since the cases were filed by Delaware residents in a Pennsylvania court, they were withdrawn to get in line with the BMS ruling. The plaintiffs have indicated that they will re-file the suits in Delaware.

In an even higher-profile case, a St. Louis judge declared a mistrial on the very day that the Supreme Court issued its decision. The trial involved the alleged links between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products and ovarian cancer. Though on trial in Missouri, some of the cases in that mass action were filed in Virginia and Texas. Judge Rex Burlison decided that, in light of BMS, it was prudent to grant Johnson & Johnson the mistrial that it had requested.

What does this all mean for plaintiffs?

In a way, it means nothing. If you have a case that is likely to be consolidated into an MDL case or a mass tort case, you and your attorney should simply file that case in your home state. Easy as that.

On another level, BMS is potentially meaningful to the long-term prospects of mass legal actions in general. Any Supreme Court ruling will, by definition, set a legal precedent, at least until another case emerges to challenge or appeal it.

The long-term legal impact of the Bristol-Myers Squibb decision is not something that you need to concern yourself with – that’s your attorney’s job. But it’s always good to be informed of the legal specificities that may affect you and any lawsuit you may see fit to file.

If you choose to work with the attorneys at TheLawFirm.com, you can rest assured that you’ll be represented by seasoned experts who stay abreast of every important legal development.

We look forward to the chance to represent your case.>
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