Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, August 26, 2019

Wrong forum, take a hike!

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By The Madison County Record | Oct 18, 2017

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Everyone knows, and quotes, that popular modification of the original Sin City slogan from the early 2000s (“What happens here, stays here”).

The idea of the original marketing campaign was to entice tourists to Vegas by letting them know that they could do things there that they might never dream of doing at home – and then go back where they came from and not worry about anyone finding out about what they did. Vegas, in other words, was a year-round Mardi Gras, only you didn't have to wear a mask to conceal your identity.

Now there's a corollary: “What doesn't happen here, stays elsewhere.” 

That's essentially the message that the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District communicated when it vacated a  $72 million talcum powder verdict against Johnson & Johnson because the claims made against the company by an Alabama woman had no connection to the state.

This past June, while the case was on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Bristol-Myers Squibb case, holding that specific personal jurisdiction requires a connection between the forum state and the specific claims at issue. In light of that ruling, and others that preceded it, the appeals court was obliged to overturn the lower court decision.

“The impact of Bristol-Myers Squibb on the issue of personal jurisdiction for the trial court was not the result of a new rule of law, but a reaffirmation of the traditional rules of personal jurisdiction discussed long ago by the Supreme Court in International Shoe, and more recently reaffirmed in Daimler,” Judge Kurt Odenwald  emphasized in his concurring opinion.

In short, a case should always be tried in its proper forum, and plaintiffs and attorneys trying to find a friendlier one they don't belong in should be told to take a hike.

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