Products Liability Law Daily Illinois lacks jurisdiction over Bayer in Essure® class action
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Friday, June 5, 2020

Illinois lacks jurisdiction over Bayer in Essure® class action

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Illinois could not exercise personal jurisdiction over claims filed by nonresident patients against the out-of-state companies that had manufactured Essure®.

The due process requirements of the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions prohibited Illinois courts from exercising specific personal jurisdiction over claims against out-of-state manufacturers of a birth control device filed by out-of-state patients seeking damages for personal injuries that were incurred outside of Illinois allegedly from a device that had been manufactured outside of the state, the Illinois Supreme Court held. According to the high court, the claims asserted by nonresident patients did not arise out of or relate to the device makers’ activities within the state (Rios v. Bayer Corp., June 4, 2020, Theis, M. J.).

An Illinois resident and 94 other women from 25 states filed a lawsuit in Illinois state court against several Bayer entities, including Bayer Corporation, alleging that they had suffered personal injuries as a result of being prescribed and implanted with an allegedly defective birth control device known as Essure®. The complaint, as amended, stated claims for negligence, strict products liability, and breach of express and implied warranties, all of which were based on allegations that (1) the devices were defectively manufactured; (2) the patients had relied on false or misleading statements in Essure’s promotional materials; (3) Bayer failed to adequately warn the patients and/or their physicians about the device’s risks; and (4) the prescribing physicians were not adequately trained to perform the Essure implantation procedure. The trial court denied Bayer’s motion to dismiss, finding that the patients had pled sufficient facts to establish a link between their claims and the state of Illinois. The appellate court affirmed, holding that Bayer purposefully had availed itself of Illinois, and that the claims against it arose from or were connected to its conduct in the state [see Products Liability Daily’s June 3, 2019 analysis]. The Illinois Supreme Court granted Bayer’s petition for leave to appeal.

Specific jurisdiction. The patients had argued that Bayer was subject to specific jurisdiction in Illinois because the company had used Illinois to develop, label, or work on the regulatory approval for Essure; had created the Essure Accreditation Program—a training program for physicians—in Illinois; and had developed a marketing strategy for Essure in Illinois. According to the patients, these in-state activities, combined with Bayer’s decision to contract with physicians and "key opinion leaders" in Illinois to conduct clinical trials, permitted Illinois courts to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the company. Bayer did not dispute that it purposefully directed activities toward Illinois; rather, it argued—and the state high court agreed—that the claims of nonresident patients did not arise out of, or relate to, those activities in any meaningful sense of those terms.

Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California [see Products Liability Law Daily’s June 19, 2017 analysis], the Illinois Supreme Court found that the nonresident patients had failed to identify any relevant links between the causes of actions set forth in the complaint and the state of Illinois. For example, the nonresident patients had alleged that the device contained manufacturing defects. However, these patients failed to allege that their devices had been manufactured in Illinois or that Bayer did, or should have, established manufacturing procedures in Illinois. The nonresident patients also had asserted that Bayer willfully disseminated false and misleading information. Again, the nonresident patients failed to allege that either they or their physicians received that false information in Illinois, and neither the patients nor their physicians resided in the forum. The nonresident patients’ failure-to-warn claims were based on allegations that Bayer had failed to report the risks of serious defects and life-altering complications despite the fact that the company knew or should have known of these risks prior to the time of implantation. However, the nonresident patients’ devices were not implanted in Illinois and nothing in their complaints linked Bayer’s alleged failure to warn to any activities that occurred in Illinois. Finally, although the patients had alleged that Bayer undertook a duty to train physicians—a duty they allegedly had breached—the patients did not allege that Bayer trained their physicians in Illinois, nor had their devices been implanted in Illinois.

Having alleged no adequate link between Illinois and the nonresident patients’ claims, the Illinois high court held that the nonresident patients had failed to meet their burden of establishing a prima facie basis on which the trial court could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Bayer as to those patients.

Reasonableness. The Illinois high court further concluded that it would not be reasonable for the nonresidents’ claims to proceed in Illinois. Illinois had no particular interest in resolving claims that did not arise out of or relate to activities that occurred in the state. In addition, the patients’ interest in obtaining relief did not weigh in favor of Illinois courts’ exercise of specific personal jurisdiction for non-Illinois plaintiffs. The nonresidents failed to explain how Illinois could be a convenient location for this litigation when they were not implanted with their devices in the state and failed to identify any other activity that would connect their specific claims to Illinois. Further, as Bayer had asserted, many nonresident plaintiffs had initiated duplicate actions in California, thereby demonstrating that the interests of judicial economy would not be advanced by permitting their claims to proceed in Illinois.

The case is No. 2020 IL 125020.

Attorneys: Ann Callis (Holland Law Firm) for Christy Rios and Nichole Hamby. W. Jason Rankin (Hepler Broom, LLC) for Bayer Corp.

Companies: Bayer Corp.

MainStory: TopStory JurisdictionNews MedicalDevicesNews IllinoisNews

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