Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review of California Case Defying Personal Jurisdiction Rules

Term: 2016 Term
Oral Argument Date:
Vote: Awaiting Decision
Questions Presented: 

Whether a plaintiff’s claims arise out of or relate to a defendant’s forum activities when there is no causal link between the defendant’s forum contacts and the plaintiff’s claims—that is, where the plaintiff’s claims would be exactly the same even if the defendant had no forum contacts.

U.S. Chamber's Position: 

Joined by the California Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Association, the U.S. Chamber filed an amicus brief in support of a cert. petition seeking review of a California decision ignoring the principled distinction between general personal jurisdiction and specific personal jurisdiction.  Rather than follow the binding precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court endorsed a “sliding scale approach to specific jurisdiction,” which posits that the more pervasive a corporate defendant’s forum contacts, the more likely a court will presume a connection between those contacts and the claim—even when, as here, the claims are brought by nonresidents who didn’t even purchase a product in the forum.

The Chamber’s amicus brief argued that the California Supreme Court’s decision is no more than an attempt to stamp a “specific jurisdiction” label onto what would have to be an exercise of general jurisdiction in order to hale these defendants into a California court—which is directly contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s binding personal jurisdiction precedents.  Further, the brief warned that this decision, and other similar decisions plaguing the lower courts, will not only have disastrous consequences for businesses nationwide, but will also overburden the courts and embolden states to regulate conduct occurring entirely outside their borders, which is contrary to the principles of federalism.

Andrew J. Pincus, Archis A. Parasharami, and Matthew A. Waring of Mayer Brown LLP served as counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center. 

Outcome Content: 

This case has not been decided yet on the merits.

Procedural History: 

Cert. petition filed 10/7/2016.

U.S. Chamber amicus brief filed 11/10/2016.

Cert. granted 1/19/2017.