Non-resident companies across the United States have been anxiously awaiting the California Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Company v. Superior Court (San Francisco) regarding the reach of the state’s personal jurisdiction statute. In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, a 4-3 majority held that Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is subject to jurisdiction in California on suits by non-resident plaintiffs injured outside the state, but limited its holding to claims based on specific jurisdiction only.
The underlying actions, some 592 consolidated claims by non-resident plaintiffs, had been challenged by BMS via a Motion to Quash for lack of personal jurisdiction. BMS argued that the company is incorporated in Delaware, headquartered in New York City, and maintains substantial operations in New Jersey. Furthermore, BMS claimed that none of the at-issue complaints contained any claims that the non-resident plaintiffs‘ injuries occurred in California or that they had been treated for their injuries here. As such, it believed neither specific nor general personal jurisdiction could be exercised over it for claims by non-resident plaintiffs.
After some procedural back and forth on the applicability of general jurisdiction in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman (2014) 571 U.S. ___ [134 S.Ct. 746] (Daimler), the Court of Appeal for California heard the BMS cases on transfer, and held that it was specific personal jurisdiction, and not general, which California had the right to exercise over BMS. It was this decision that the State Supreme Court yesterday affirmed.