Supreme Court limits where patients can sue for injuries caused by drugs

Bristol-Myers Squibb prevailed in its effort to get the Supreme Court to limit where patients can sue to seek compensation for harm caused by drugs.

Justices Monday ruled, 8-1, for the drug company in a case that pitted BMS against the state of California and that could have broad implications for where manufacturers can be sued.

The case centered around whether plaintiffs residing outside of California who claim they were harmed by BMS’ blood thinner Plavix could join in a lawsuit brought by California residents against the New York-based company in California. The out-of-state residents didn’t buy the drug or take it in California, and the product wasn’t manufactured in the state.

"The mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained, and ingested Plavix in California — and allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the non-residents — does not allow the State to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims," wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the court’s opinion.

BMS and the government said California’s Supreme Court erred when it agreed that the out-of-state plaintiffs had standing in the case. The company argued failure to overturn the ruling would create more unpredictable conditions for corporations.

A BMS win could limit patients’ ability to “forum shop” cases against drugmakers. California is thought to be a particularly friendly state for injured plaintiffs, and a court victory for BMS could discourage patients from seeking relief there to boost their odds of a victory.


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