The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could finally answer the question about the limits of specific jurisdiction when it reviews the California Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Courts of San Francisco County, 377 P.3d 874 (Cal. 2016). In Bristol-Myers, the California Supreme Court held that hundreds of non-California plaintiffs could bring claims under various state laws in the California courts.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court held in its opinion in Daimler AG v. Bauman that general jurisdiction over corporate entities is limited to two locations, the state of incorporation and the state where the company has its principle place of business. However, in Bristol-Myers Squibb, the California Supreme Court effectively threatened the U.S. Supreme Court’s efforts to limit forum shopping by using specific jurisdiction. The California Supreme Court found that California courts had specific jurisdiction over the claims of almost 600 out-of-state plaintiffs, even though the actions giving rise to their claims occurred entirely outside the state. The majority opinion found that specific jurisdiction was permissible because the outof-state plaintiffs were joined with several California plaintiffs whose claims were based on the same allegedly defective product and purportedly misleading marketing and promotion of that product, which allegedly caused injuries in and outside the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will address the California Supreme Court’s attempts to widen the limits of specific jurisdiction and could have far reaching impacts on plaintiffs’ ability to forum shop. A decision is expected sometime in the summer of 2017.