California court hangs out a welcome sign: Drug makers can be sued here

In a closely watched decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled 4 -3 Monday that hundreds of residents from outside the state have the right to sue Bristol-Myers Squibb in the judicial system of the state over the side effects caused by one of your drugs.

in question was the question of jurisdiction, which can be used to determine where a lawsuit can be filed. This particular ruling, has clarified the extent that the drugmaker necessary to have a presence in California in order to be sued by the people of Texas, Ohio and 33 other states, who claim they were harmed by the blood Plavix thinner.

Although Bristol-Myers may not be headquartered in California, the Court determined the company holds enough business – sales, marketing, distribution and R & D – for state courts to serve as a place to lawsuits filed by residents from outside the state. The drug manufacturer has not shown that allowing these demands would have been “reasonable,” the court wrote in its opinion of 37 pages.

At first glance, the subject may seem limited in scope, but there are wider implications for the pharmaceutical industry, which continually faces liability claims brought by consumers. Although the ruling only applies to this particular case, the court may have hung a welcome sign that invites even more people around the country to file lawsuits in California against drug manufacturers.

that’s because the state courts of California are considered more hospitable to people who bring lawsuits against drug manufacturers, according to lawyers who defend the pharmaceutical industry. “California has a strong law to protect consumers,” said Daniel Herling, Mintz Levin partner, who is not involved in this litigation. “The state has favorable to plaintiffs to bring cases there very strong laws.”

This helps explain why Bristol-Myers would have preferred that the demands were confined to the different state courts, where hundreds of applicants residing when treated with Plavix, which was blamed for causing heart attacks, accidents stroke and brain hemorrhage, among other things. After all, why undergo a place if you think your chances are not so good?

There is another reason that essentially reflects a strategy of divide and conquer. It is also easier for the company to force consumers to press their demands in many different places as possible. Thus, resources are taxed, while Bristol-Myers has the means to defend itself.

“Bristol-Myers would prefer to have claimed in their states of origin and not in California. The company prefers to see they spread them around,” said Steven Boranian, partner at Reed Smith, who has defended drug manufacturers, but it is not involved in this litigation. “Now, I believe that the pharmaceutical industry see this as making it easier to file more lawsuits in California.”

However, in his opinion, the court held that such a large number of similar lawsuits, which are known as mass torts, can not be processed efficiently if dispersed in separate places. The opinion pointed out that many places would lead to duplication of efforts across the country “substantial costs” in the judicial system and those involved in the dispute.

In its disagreement, the remaining three judges disagree that jurisdiction was properly applied and “is incompatible with the limits for due process.” For this reason, Boranian suggested that Bristol-Myers may request the Supreme Court of the United States to review the decision, and that due process is a constitutional issue.

As for Bristol-Myers spokeswoman wrote us that “respectfully disagree with the majority decision 03/04 and believe that dissent applied the correct analysis. We continue to review the decision and we are evaluating our options” .

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