A trio of medical device makers are looking to slip patent infringement and product liability lawsuits based on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings governing out-of-state lawsuits.
In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the Supremes limited the ability of patent holders to sue in other states. Kraft sued TC Heartland in its incorporated state of Delaware over drink powder patents; a lower court blocked TC Heartland’s bid to move the case to its home base of Indiana. In May, the Supreme court reversed that decision, finding that the only place a defendant can be subject to a suit is their home court, a place where infringement occurred or where the defendant has a regular and established place of business.
Similarly, in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, the pharmaceutical giant was sued by more than 600 plaintiffs alleging injuries from its Plavix drug. The justices overturned a California state court ruling that, although there was little connection between the lawsuits and the Golden State (only 86 plaintiffs hailed from the state), the lawsuits could proceed there because of the company’s extensive links there.
“For specific jurisdiction, a defendant’s general connections with the forum are not enough,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 8-1 majority, “The relevant plaintiffs are not California residents and do not claim to have suffered harm in that State. In addition, as in Walden, all the conduct giving rise to the nonresidents’ claims occurred elsewhere. It follows that the California courts cannot claim specific jurisdiction.”
In court filings last week, Abbott (NYSE:ABT) subsidiary St. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) unit Ethicon all cited the Heartland and Bristol-Myers Squibb decisions in asking courts to dismiss lawsuits against them.
St. Jude, accused of patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for Western Wisconsin by Dr. Imran Niazi, argued to Judge James Peterson that Niazi’s complaint “is critically deficient as it fails to establish that venue is proper in this district” under the Heartland ruling, according to the filings.
“There is no dispute that St. Jude does not reside, i.e., is not incorporated, [in western Wisconsin]. Plaintiff must thus plead adequate facts to establish that St. Jude has ‘committed acts of infringement’ and has ‘a regular and established place of business’ in this district. Plaintiff has not and cannot,” the company argued. “Because St. Jude does not ‘reside’ in the Western District of Wisconsin, and because St. Jude does not have ‘a regular and established place of business’ in this district, venue is improper.”
For their part, Boston Scientific and Ethicon asked a Pennsylvania state court to dismiss a raft of out-of-state lawsuits brought over their respective pelvic mesh products. Both companies asked Judge Arnold New to dismiss the cases based on Heartland and Bristol-Myers Squibb, according to Law360.