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In a closely watched decision, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Monday that hundreds of out-of-state residents had the right to sue Bristol-Myers Squibb in the state court system over side effects caused by one of its drugs.

At issue was the question of jurisdiction, which can be used to determine where a lawsuit may be filed. This particular ruling clarified the extent to which the drug maker needed to have a presence in California in order to be sued by people from Texas, Ohio, and 33 other states, who claim they were harmed by the Plavix blood thinner.


Although Bristol-Myers may not be headquartered in California, the court determined the company conducts enough business — sales, marketing, distribution, and R&D — for state courts to serve as a venue for lawsuits filed by out-of-state residents. The drug maker failed to demonstrate that allowing such lawsuits would have been “unreasonable,” the court wrote in its 37-page opinion.

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