SAN FRANCISCO — On the day before Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal concerning jurisdiction involving Bristol Myers Squibb and its blood-thinning medication Plavix.
The appeal centers around a California Supreme Court decision that allows state courts to hear arguments about Plavix even though some of the plaintiffs live in California and the company is based in New York.
The two sides are fighting over where the lawsuits should be filed. Typically, companies can be sued in states where they are located in or where they have significant ties.
In August 2016, according to SFGate.com, the California Supreme Court ruled it could hear the Plavix case because BMS sold nearly a billion dollars of the drug, and it also conducted an advertising and marketing campaign on a national scale.
BMS lawyers, meanwhile, claim the California ruling allows plaintiffs to file suits in states that have more-favorable laws and not in states where they are headquartered.
There were eight suits filed against BMS in 2012, involving 84 California residents and 575 nonresidents, according to Law360.com. They allege after taking Plavix, that increased their risk of having a stroke, suffering a heart attack or bleeding internally.
The court has not heard the case yet, and Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge, to the bench. His confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin later this month.
In an article posted on MassTortNexis.com, senior consultant Mark A. York weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court before the Gorsuch nomination and how he thought they would rule in this jurisdictional case.
“Chief Justice Roberts has leaned left in high-profile rulings and away from his original conservative view the last two years and kept things in line,” York said. “Roberts may continue that path and it will be a 5-3 ruling for the plaintiffs. But even if he goes right and there’s a 4-4 split, if it’s prior to Trump’s pick for a new justice, the California court ruling stands, and BMS is out until the next chance comes in another case.
“This may be a moral-compass decision for Roberts at this point and a view down the road of what’s coming even if there is a conservative Trump appointee. If Trump successfully appoints a justice who pulls the straight conservative line and Roberts goes right, then nonresident Plavix cases are done in California.’’