Lawyers handling drug-defect suits say New Jersey courts could see an uptick in volume of pharmaceutical and medical device suits in light of this week’s Supreme Court ruling in a California case that narrowed access to jurisdiction for out-of-state plaintiffs.
The justices’ holding on Monday in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, that California courts lacked general jurisdiction over suits by nonresident users of the blood thinner Plavix, will send some plaintiffs scrambling for new venues, lawyers said. And they added that New Jersey’s status as home to numerous major drug companies could prompt more plaintiff lawyers from around the country to file their cases in this state’s courts.
Already the court’s ruling has prompted a St. Louis judge to declare a mistrial Monday in suits by one Missouri resident and two from other states claiming that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused users to develop cancer.
In Missouri, where Johnson & Johnson has tried five cases over allegedly cancer-causing properties of its talcum powder, and in four of those plaintiffs prevailed. In those cases, Bristol-Myers puts those verdicts in jeopardy on appeal, said Wilfred Coronato, a McCarter & English lawyer who represents drug companies in products liability suits. He also forecast that New Jersey is likely to see more drug cases filed as a result of the court’s ruling.
“New Jersey is known as the medicine chest of the world. More than a dozen of the largest pharmaceutical companies are located in New Jersey. So many pharmaceutical companies are, in the words of the Supreme Court, fairly regarded as home in New Jersey, subject to suits by residents and nonresidents alike. Plaintiffs lawyers who are looking to file large inventories of cases in a single state, where their large inventory might be from plaintiffs who hail from various states, can file in New Jersey because they’re subject to general jurisdiction,” Coronato said.