On December 19, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of multinational pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer, setting back the efforts of 92 Essure patients, the vast majority of whom do not live in Missouri, to have their cases heard in a St. Louis court. In a unanimous opinion, the State’s highest court held that the St. Louis Circuit Court had erred in rejecting Bayer’s petition to dismiss a multi-plaintiff lawsuit, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The case has been remanded for further consideration in the lower court, where plaintiffs say they will introduce an amended complaint to buttress their jurisdiction argument.

Battle Over Essure Reaches Missouri Supreme Court

Like similar Essure lawsuits, the case accuses Bayer of concealing Essure’s alleged risks, overstating the device’s benefits and threatening public health with a dangerous implant. The problem, however, is that the lawsuit incorporates the claims of 92 different women, only 7 of whom actually live in Missouri (or received Essure-related medical treatment in the State). The 85 other plaintiffs are considered out-of-state participants.

Missouri State House In Jefferson City

Court Opinions Limit Where Patients Can Sue Companies

Bayer maintains a US headquarters in Whippany, New Jersey, but marketed and sold Essure throughout all 50 states, including Missouri.  And since Bayer isn’t headquartered in Missouri, defense attorneys have argued that the out-of-state plaintiffs have no business suing there. In court filings, Bayer has relied on two recent decisions, one from the US Supreme Court and another from Missouri’s own Supreme Court, that have limited the scope of jurisdictional determinations.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

In June 2017, the nation’s high court ruled that courts in California don’t have the jurisdiction to hear the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs who are suing out-of-state defendants.

The case, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, involved a series of lawsuits against Bristol-Myers Squibb. Over 660 patients accused the pharmaceutical manufacturer of misrepresenting the risks of a blood thinner drug, Plavix.

But only 86 of the plaintiffs hailed from California. And, despite maintaining five offices and four research facilities in the State, Bristol-Myers Squibb couldn’t be forced to answer to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs in California’s courts, the Supreme Court held. In order to sue, the Court concluded, the patients would need to demonstrate a closer connection between their alleged injuries and Bristol Myer’s activities in California.

Missouri Supreme Court Rules Against Out-Of-State Claimants

An earlier ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court, rendered in February 2017, said that plaintiffs couldn’t use the State’s courts to sue out-of-state corporations, even when those companies conduct substantial, though unrelated, business in-state.

Taken together, Bayer argues, these two guiding opinions make clear that the 85 out-of-state Essure patients have no right to pursue their claims in Missouri.

Lower Court May, Or May Not, Consider Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint

The St. Louis Circuit Court disagreed, overruling Bayer’s motion to dismiss and allowing the case to proceed.

That decision has now been vacated. And, as we’ve now seen, the US Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb, along with newly-established Missouri precedent, will hold greater sway on future court proceedings in the State. “There are certain doors regarding personal jurisdiction that are being shut,” noted Missouri Chief Justice Zel Fischer during a November hearing in the case. Bayer’s defense attorneys were “winning those arguments,” Justice Fischer continued.

To be clear, the Missouri Supreme Court hasn’t denied the out-of-state plaintiffs’ right to file suit entirely. Instead, the multi-plaintiff Essure case has been remanded and sent back for further proceedings in the lower court. The 85 out-of-state plaintiffs have thus far failed to demonstrate why Missouri is the appropriate jurisdiction to hear their claims, the Supreme Court said. But they’ll get a second chance to do so.

In the St. Louis Circuit Court, the plaintiffs plan to introduce an amended complaint, which they say will demonstrate that Missouri is the appropriate jurisdiction for their claims. In brief, the women have indicated through their attorneys that their argument will hinge on “extensive” Essure clinical trials performed in Missouri, as well as Bayer’s marketing campaign in the State. The St. Louis Circuit Court retains the right to consider this amended complaint, but could also opt to dismiss the case out-of-hand.