Supreme Court Limits Where Companies Can Be Sued

There is an interesting article on the Reuters website about how the Supreme Court of the United States has made an important ruling concerning in what states plaintiffs may file injury lawsuits against corporations. The court made an 8-1 decision to put limits on where lawsuits can be filed, which is good news for companies that want to prevent plaintiffs suing them from picking the most advantageous state. More specifically, the case involved out-of-state plaintiffs suing Bristol-Myers Squibb in California although the alleged injuries by the pharmaceutical company did not all occur there and the company is based elsewhere.

The ruling was good news for the Johnson & Johnson company, which is being sued in Missouri state courts despite the corporation being headquartered in New Jersey. Furthermore, a similar ruling by the Supreme Court on May 30th regarding out-of-state plaintiffs suing Texas-based BNSF Railway Co. will likely make corporations more secure that they won’t be sued in states where they are not based. As always, however, plaintiffs retain the right to bring cases against corporations in whatever state they are located. Therefore, the ruling limits the ability of plaintiffs to “shop around,” but it is still very possible to hold corporations liable in court when they are at fault.

The lone dissenting justice was Sonia Sotomayor. Essentially, she feels that the ruling puts too much burden on people who have suffered at the hands of negligent companies. She appears to believe that, because corporations sell products all over the country and not just in the states where they are based, they should be held accountable wherever their products do harm. In the Bristol-Myers Squibb case, the company actually sold nearly one billion dollars of their drug Plavix – the drug alleged to have done harm – in the State of California, so the suit was brought in that state.

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