Doubling Down: Court Holds a Second Time That Bristol-Myers-Squibb Applies to Class Actions

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017), the Supreme Court held a state court did not have specific jurisdiction in a mass tort action over the non-resident defendant as to the claims asserted by non-resident plaintiffs.  The exercise of jurisdiction under those circumstances was not compatible with the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause.  The practical effect of this rule is huge, and would cut down on forum shopping by preventing plaintiffs from bringing nationwide class actions against corporations outside their home state.  However, the Supreme Court “left open” the issue of whether the rule applies to class actions.  And of course – because TCPAland – courts are divided.

Just yesterday, however, Judge Leinenweber of the Northern District of Illinois held in a putative junk-fax TCPA class action that Bristol-Myers applies to class actions, reinforcing the precedent supporting the application of the rule.  America’s Health & Res. Ctr. v. Promologics, Inc., No. 16 C 9281, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120590, at *6 (N.D. Ill. July 19, 2018).  In fact, this particular court had first weighed in on the issue earlier this year, calling it a “close question” at that time, but concluding it was “more likely than not” that the rule applied to class actions.  DeBernardis v. NBTY, Inc., No. 17 C 6125, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7947, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 18, 2018).  There was no equivocation for the court the second time around, and it squarely held that “due process requirements do not differ between class and non-class actions,” and that Bristol-Myers therefore applied with “equal measure”.  America’s Health, supra.

Bristol-Myers is a potent tool in the class action defense toolbox, helping businesses avoid being dragged outside their home state to defend costly nationwide class actions.  Although courts are split, every case like America’s Health helps reinforce the sound reasons why the rule should be applied to class actions.


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