SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court recently announced its decision that patients or their family members can sue manufacturer Bristol-Myers for falsely advertising the benefits of the cardiovascular drug Plavix, even though the company and most of the plaintiffs are based in other states.

It has been alleged by multiple class action lawsuits against Bristol-Myers that the manufacturers of the drug falsely advertised its effectiveness in improving cardiovascular issues, while not addressing the risks of the drug. The claims state that Plavix is ineffective in what it is supposed to do and poses more risks than benefits.

It has been reported that taking Plavix could result in heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhaging, gastrointestinal bleeding and even death.

“Plavix is designed to prevent blood clots in people who have recently suffered a heart attack or stroke, as well as those suffering from certain heart or blood vessel disorders,” an Aug. 29 SFGate article said. “However, research has suggested that, in some patients, the drug may increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke – the conditions it was designed to prevent.”

According to the article, the 4-3 court ruling would allow a nationwide suit by 86 Californians and 592 residents of 33 other states to proceed in San Francisco Superior Court, as long as the state Supreme Court case is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court first.

“The lawsuit, however, alleges that Plavix increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes and that Bristol-Myers has failed to disclose those dangers while falsely promoting the drug’s safety,” the SFGate article said. “The plaintiffs say they have suffered internal bleeding and other damage, and additional heart attacks and strokes, and 18 of the cases were brought by relatives of patients who have died.”

In a legal climate where class action lawsuits are prevalent and the courts are usually sympathetic with plaintiffs, California attorneys and residents could benefit from the state court ruling.

Those who are representing Bristol-Myers argue that this ruling flies in the face of a January 2014 Supreme Court ruling that said a Daimler car company could not be sued in California over alleged abuses in Argentina.

A Jan. 14, 2014, Reuters article explained that the Daimler case argued that one of Daimler’s subsidiaries, Mercedes Benz Argentina, had collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture and kill the plaintiffs or their close relatives, who were employees of Mercedes Benz Argentina, during Argentina’s military dictatorship, which ruled from 1976-1983. In a 9-0 ruling, the justices said companies must do substantial business in the United States to be sued there. 

In this most current ruling, the court majority argued that Bristol-Myers did a considerable amount of business with California, because they have five research and laboratory offices, 250 salespeople and Plavix sales of nearly $918 million between 2006 and 2012 from Californians.

Furthermore, plaintiffs who suffered from Plavix claimed to prefer a single case in a state such as California, with lawyers and judges well versed in product liability cases, rather than taking their claims to courts in multiple states that may have less experience with such issues.

 

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