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September 1st, 2016

‘Clueless’ California High Court Decision Extends Invitation to Out-of-State Plaintiffs’ Lawsuits

Californians Dionne, Cherilyn and foreign student Tai (L-R), from Clueless (Paramount 1995)

So check it: California, already the nation’s #1 ranked Judicial Hellhole for three years running, has, like, thrown open its doors to out-of-state plaintiffs with claims similar to California plaintiffs’ claims against national defendants, discarding due process and effectively ignoring several U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

On August 26, 2016, in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that state courts may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state company. The high court found that jurisdiction extends to claims filed by non-residents, so long as the company has extensive contacts in the state and provides the same product or service to California residents who have raised similar claims. The non-residents’ claims need not rest on any other additional contacts between the nonresident, the defendant, and California. In other words, so long as Cherilyn and Dionne have a claim against Noxema in California, so will Tai

Justice Kathryn Werdegar

In giving the majority a proverbial “as if,” Justice Kathryn Werdegar notes in her dissent: “By weakening the relatedness requirement, the majority‘s decision threatens to subject companies to the jurisdiction of California courts to an extent unpredictable from their business activities in California, extending jurisdiction over claims of liability well beyond our state‘s legitimate regulatory interest.  . . . Such an aggressive assertion of personal jurisdiction is inconsistent with the limits set by due process. ”

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who for years has inveighed against shrinking court budgets and ever-growing docket backlogs, seems to have missed the irony when writing the majority’s poorly reasoned invitation to an unknowable number of out-of-state plaintiffs who’ll now add to those backlogs with new lawsuit filings and thus deplete recently boosted but still finite budgetary resources.

It all boils down to one inevitable conclusion: California’s high court majority is, like, totally Clueless.

 

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