U.S. top court to hear Bristol-Myers out-of-state injury appeal

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By Erica Teichert

<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to
hear an appeal by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb
Co in a dispute involving its blood-thinning medication
Plavix that could limit where corporations can be sued, the
second such case it has taken up in the past week.

The justices will review a California Supreme Court decision
allowing that state’s courts to hear claims over Plavix even
though the plaintiffs did not live in the state and the company
is not based there.

Last Friday, the justices said they would decide a similar
appeal by Texas-based BNSF Railway Co of a 2015
Montana Supreme Court ruling allowing out-of-state residents to
sue there over injuries that occurred anywhere in BNSF’s
nationwide network.

Companies and plaintiffs are engaged in a fight over where
lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries should be filed.
Companies typically can be sued in a state where they are
headquartered or incorporated, as well as where they have
significant ties.

The California Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that it
could preside over the Plavix case because Bristol-Myers Squibb
conducted a national marketing campaign and sold nearly $1
billion of the drug in the state.

Bristol-Myers and pharmaceutical industry groups argue that
the ruling allows plaintiffs to bring lawsuits in states with
more favorable laws, rather than where the company is based or
where the alleged injury occurred.

Bristol-Myers is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered
in New York.

The eight underlying lawsuits filed in 2012 against
Bristol-Myers and California-based drug distributor McKesson
Corp involve 84 California residents and 575 non-residents,
alleging Plavix increased their risk of stroke, heart attack and
internal bleeding.

The BNSF case involves a pair of lawsuits brought under the
Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which permits injured railroad
employees to sue for compensation from their companies.

BNSF, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, argued that the Montana courts did not have jurisdiction over
the cases. The Montana Supreme Court in May ruled that state
courts there can hear cases against BNSF without violating due
process rights of the U.S. Constitution because the company does
business in the state.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Chung)

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