United States Supreme Court Issues Jurisdictional Ruling in Pharmaceutical Product Liability Case

The United States prescription drug industry generates billions of dollars in revenue per year. Statistically speaking, about one in two Americans used a prescribed medication during the last month, and about one in four used three or more drugs.

There are two ways to look at this situation. The more positive approach is to be thankful that we live in a time when so many medical conditions can be treated by the use of pharmaceuticals. The more skeptical approach is to consider whether we really need all of that medicine, or whether “Big Pharma” (as it is sometimes called) is more about money than benevolence.

Either way, one thing is for sure:  not all drugs are safe for all patients. Even medications that have gone through all of the required testing sometimes cause considerable harm and even death, inevitably leading to Massachusetts product liability lawsuits in Cape Cod and elsewhere.

Facts of the Case

In a case under consideration by the nation’s highest court earlier this summer, the original plaintiffs were some 678 individuals who filed suit against the original defendant drug manufacturer, alleging claims for product liability, negligent misrepresentation, misleading advertising, and other tortious acts. The case began with eight separate lawsuits filed in state court. Since only 86 of the plaintiffs were residents of the forum state, the defendant moved to quash service of the summons on the nonresidents’ claims, based on lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion.

The state’s intermediate court of appeals affirmed, as did the state supreme court. The manufacturer sought the review of the United States Supreme Court.

Holding of the United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the state court lacked specific jurisdiction over the claims of the nonresident plaintiffs. In so holding, the court noted that the manufacturer engaged in business activities in the state, but it did not manufacture the subject medication there, nor did it develop a marketing strategy there. Additionally, there was no indication that the nonresident plaintiffs had purchased the drugs in that state or were treated for their alleged injuries there.

Under these circumstances, the Court found that the state court lacked specific jurisdiction. Only when there was an affiliation between the forum and the controversy was such jurisdiction present. This is true regardless of the defendant’s other, unconnected activities in the forum state.

The court noted that the question of whether the same restrictions would be present on a federal court under the Fifth Amendment remains open.

Has Someone in Your Family Been Hurt by a Defective Product?

Dangerous products come in many shapes and forms. While some are obviously more dangerous than others, some of the most deadly products can seem like the most innocuous to the uninformed. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, our knowledgeable Cape Cod product liability attorneys work hard to stay abreast of the latest developments in the area of defective products. Call us at 888-262-6664 to schedule a free consultation about your case.

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