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Appellate Practice

Apr. 28, 2017

A Sliding Scale Approach to Specific Personal Jurisdiction?

Two friends of the Court offer contrasting views on the Cal. Supreme Court personal jurisdiction ruling argued before SCOTUS Tuesday: Prof. Andrew Bradt (UC Berkeley Law) advocates affirmance, and a flexible specific personal jurisdiction doctrine; Fred Hiestand (Civil Justice Assn. of Cal.) argues the rule should entail a causal link, and that California's high court should be reversed.


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This week we'll hear two viewpoints regarding a consequential U.S. Supreme Court case in the area of civil procedure, and one that's been appealed from the California Supreme Court.
In the case, Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, justices will once against grapple with the limits of personal jurisdiction, this time specific personal jurisdiction. In its ruling, the California Supreme Court found that enough contacts existed between California and the out-of-state drugmaker defendant, Bristol-Myers Squibb, such that a number of out-of-state plaintiffs, though they hadn't purchased or been harmed by the company's drugs in California, could bring their products liability action in California state court.
That 4-3 ruling is now up for review, and has engendered stark disagreement between the many interested parties who have filed amicus briefs in the matter, two of whom join the show today. Professor Andrew Bradt, from UC Berkeley Law School, argues that the California Supreme Court was right to find specific personal jurisdiction in the action and, more generally, contends that the doctrine is a flexible one, unfit for a precise, restrictive definition. Fred Hiestand, from the Civil Justice Association of California, who filed an amicus in conjunction with the U.S. and California Chambers of Commence, argues for just that, a strict rule requiring a causal link between a defendant's state contacts and the harm sued over. Our guests will help us unpack the issues involved in this important case and, to the extent possible, read the tea leaves after a relatively active oral argument session Tuesday.

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