By Jeffrey H. Brochin, J.D.
Eighty-five patients who were not residents of Missouri and who claimed personal injuries as a result of using Essure®, a female contraceptive device manufactured and distributed by Bayer Corp., failed to assert any recognized basis for personal jurisdiction over Bayer in Missouri, the Supreme Court of Missouri has ruled. A writ of prohibition was the proper remedy to prevent further action by a trial court where personal jurisdiction over Bayer was lacking. Neither the presence of a registered agent in the state nor Bayer’s other contacts with Missouri gave rise to general personal jurisdiction (State ex rel. Bayer Corporation v. Moriarty, December 19, 2017, Stith, L.).
In August 2016, a group of 92 users of Bayer’s Essure contraceptive device filed suit in the St. Louis circuit court claiming damages for personal injuries allegedly arising out of their use of the medical device manufactured and distributed by Bayer. Only seven of the consumers were Missouri residents. The remaining 85 nonresidents did not allege that they used Essure in the state or were injured in Missouri. None of the Bayer companies are incorporated in nor have their principal place of business in Missouri, and Bayer is also not "at home" in Missouri.
Bayer moved to dismiss the nonresidents’ claims or, alternatively, to sever and transfer those claims to appropriate venues, contending that Bayer was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri with respect to the nonresident parties. The circuit court overruled Bayer’s motion to dismiss, prompting the instant petition for a writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to dismiss the nonresidents’ claims. For the reasons cited below, the state high court issued the requested writ.
In opposition to Bayer’s motion to dismiss, the nonresident parties argued they had specific and general jurisdiction over Bayer on the grounds stated in their original petition, including that Bayer was subject to both general and specific personal jurisdiction in Missouri because Bayer consented to jurisdiction by way of registering to do business there, engaged in substantial business activities in the state, conducted business in Missouri, derived substantial revenue in Missouri by marketing Essure to women in Missouri, and allegedly committed torts in whole or in part against the device users there. In addition, they argued that Bayer was subject to "piggyback" specific jurisdiction because they were implanted with the same device that Bayer marketed and sold in Missouri to the remaining seven users.
Determining ‘at home’ status in a state. The court noted that when a state exercises personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit not arising out of or related to the defendant’s contacts with the forum, the state is said to be exercising "general jurisdiction." However, a corporation cannot be subject to general jurisdiction in a state where it is neither incorporated nor has its principal place of business unless it is an "exceptional case" rendering the corporation essentially "at home in the forum." Being "at home" is determined where the state is a surrogate for place of incorporation or home office such that the corporation is essentially at home in that state.
No general, consent, nor specific jurisdiction. The court rejected each of the contentions of the nonresidents who claimed that Missouri had jurisdiction over Bayer. Bayer’s contacts with Missouri did not give rise to general personal jurisdiction in the state because Bayer was not incorporated there, did not have its principal place of business there, and although they did substantial business in the state, precedential case law has held that to be insufficient to provide general jurisdiction in Missouri. It is simply not enough to render Bayer "at home" there, and as a result, the court found that the nonresidents failed to show that Missouri has general jurisdiction over Bayer.
Next, the court followed its own recent precedent in State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, which explicitly rejected the notion that by registering to do business in Missouri and appointing registered agents there, a company consents to personal jurisdiction in the state even over unrelated claims. Accordingly, it ruled that Bayer did not consent to personal jurisdiction in Missouri.
Finally, the court addressed the issue of specific jurisdiction, noting that it requires consideration of the relationship among the corporation, the forum, and the litigation, and that it encompasses only those cases in which the suit arises out of or relates to the corporation’s contacts with the forum. In other words, there must be an affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally an activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum state. The court found no such affiliation, activity, or occurrence and consequently found a lack of specific jurisdiction.
Although the nonresidents proposed an amended petition and discovery which they claimed would cure the jurisdictional issues, the court ruled that those were outside the scope of the issues before the court at the present time. Based on the foregoing, the court found that the circuit court erred in overruling Bayer’s motion to dismiss the original petition, and it issued a writ of prohibition directing the trial court to vacate its order without prejudice.
The case is No. SC96189.
Attorneys: William Rankin (Unfold Learning, LLC) for Bayer Corp. James P. Halloran (James P. Halloran, Attorney at Law) for Joan L. Moriarty.
Companies: Bayer Corp.
MainStory: TopStory JurisdictionNews MedicalDevicesNews MissouriNews
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