Emory Law Journal


John Mikuta


In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, the Supreme Court held that, in a coordinated mass action, a court may not exercise specific personal jurisdiction over claims from non-resident plaintiffs who did not suffer their injuries in the forum state. The Court, however, did not explicitly state whether and how its holding would apply to class actions. In March 2020, federal appellate courts began to be confronted with the issue. While the D.C. Circuit in Molock v. Whole Foods Group, Inc. side-stepped the personal jurisdiction question, Judge Silberman’s dissenting opinion argued that the logic of Bristol-Myers should apply to class actions as it does to mass actions. In Mussat v. IQVIA, the Seventh Circuit disagreed, concluding that the differences between class actions and mass actions are sufficient to distinguish the holding of Bristol-Myers as applied to the class action context.

This Comment will argue that Bristol-Myers should not be extended to class actions. Doing so would cause a momentous shift in class action law that is not supported by the Bristol-Myers opinion. In addition, as Mussat recognizes, mass actions are significantly different from class actions, as class action members are not true parties to a class action as mass action plaintiffs are to a mass action. Moreover, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which sets forth standards for appropriate certification of class actions, provides a sufficient procedural basis for protecting defendants’ due process rights. Finally, applying Bristol-Myers to class actions would defeat the policy purposes of the class action device and harm the overall efficiency of the litigation system.

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