Jurisdiction

Campbell-Ewald in Massachusetts

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On March 6th, in Silva v. Todisco Services, Inc., Judge Kenneth Salinger, sitting in the Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court, held that a defendant’s tendering of the maximum amount of damages a plaintiff might recover in a putative class action did not moot either the plaintiff’s individual claims or the claims of putative class members. In rejecting defendant’s “pick-off” attempt, Judge Salinger aligned Massachusetts state court practice with federal case law, including the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, and subsequent federal decisions. His reasons for doing so, while perhaps consistent with Massachusetts precedent, were somewhat different from the federal court rationale and could have unintended consequences.

In Campbell-Ewald, the Supreme Court held that an unaccepted offer of judgment does not moot a named plaintiff’s claim, and therefore cannot prevent a putative class action from moving forward. The Court based its decision on principles of contract law

Federal District Courts Tackle Application of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court to Class Actions

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In June 2017, we wrote about the Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) and how it would likely affect attempts by plaintiffs to pursue multi-state or nationwide class actions.  As predicted, the case law is rapidly developing in the district courts, where, in reliance on Bristol-Myers’ holding, defendants challenge courts’ jurisdiction in cases where non-resident plaintiffs assert claims against non-resident defendants not subject to general jurisdiction.

We expect the post-Bristol-Myers landscape will continue to evolve and at some point, the various Circuit Courts of Appeals will begin weighing in.  Until then, below we provide a brief overview of recent notable district court decisions on this topic.  As this overview shows, the majority of courts have held that under Bristol-Myers, they do not have personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendants with regard to claims brought by the non-resident plaintiffs.

Courts have taken

Justice Thomas’ Concurring Opinion in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker: A Useful Reminder

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On June 12th, the Supreme Court issued its unsurprising decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, addressing a relatively recent twist concerning the appealability of orders denying class certification.  The case resulted in unanimous agreement among the eight Justices who participated in it (Justice Gorsuch did not participate), but a five-three split among them as to whether the case should be decided on statutory grounds (supported by the majority) or constitutional grounds (supported by the minority).  In the course of the debate over the decision’s rationale, Justice Thomas penned a paragraph that serves as a useful reminder concerning the nature of putative class litigation.

Of all the Court’s class certification cases, this must have been one of the easiest to decide.  Put simply, the district court struck plaintiffs’ class allegations from the complaint, based on a class certification denial in an earlier case raising the same claims.  After plaintiffs unsuccessfully petitioned the Ninth Circuit for interlocutory review under Rule 23(f), they were left with

Multi-State Class Actions After the Supreme Court’s Decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court

On June 19th, the Supreme Court issued a decision that could have important consequences for multi-state class actions.  In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, the Court addressed the question whether a California state court could exercise personal jurisdiction over the claims of nonresident plaintiffs who had joined a group of California plaintiffs in suing Bristol-Myers Squibb (“BMS”) for alleged adverse health effects from its drug, Plavix.  As a matter of 14th Amendment due process, the Court held that the nonresidents’ claims should have been dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Initially, the nonresident plaintiffs succeeded in the state courts in arguing that the courts could exercise general jurisdiction over BMS, but the California Court of Appeal reversed itself after SCOTUS issued its 2014 decision in Daimler Ag v. Bauman (holding that a court could not assert general jurisdiction over a non-resident corporate defendant solely because it engaged “in a substantial, continuous and systematic course of business”