Subject: US Supreme Court

Passengers on Litigation Tourism Train Get Review from Supreme Court

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The United States Supreme Court will soon consider whether the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from requiring that a corporation consent to personal jurisdiction in order to conduct business there.

The question arises from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railroad Co., 266 A.3d 542 (Pa. 2021), which we wrote about here.  In Mallory, plaintiff Robert Mallory attempted to hold the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. liable for the colon cancer he allegedly developed after being exposed to chemicals during the two decades that he worked for the railroad in Virginia and Ohio.

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Another Brick in the Wall: The District Court Finds Preemption in Fosamax Case After Remand From the Supreme Court

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We have written before about the Supreme Court’s impossibility preemption decision, Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, 139 S. Ct. 1668 (2019) (Albrecht) (here, here, here, and here), highlighting some open questions and uncertainties that might come into play on remand. Albrecht held that impossibility preemption is a question of law for the court, not for the jury, “elaborated” on the “clear evidence” standard arising from Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555 (2009) (Wyeth), and remanded to the Third Circuit for determination of the preemption issue. That court in turn remanded to the District of New Jersey and further directed the district court “to determine the effect of the FDA’s Complete Response Letter and other communications with Merck on the issue of whether the agency actions are sufficient” to find preemption.

We predicted that the decision on remand would be “interesting” and opined that the case for preemption was “strong.” We now have that decision, In re Fosamax (Alendronate Sodium) Prod. Liab. Litig., 2022 WL 855853 (D. N.J. Mar. 23, 2022) (Fosamax), and we were right on both counts.

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Pennsylvania Rejects Corporate Registration as Basis for Personal Jurisdiction

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A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion provides out-of-state corporations more protection from litigation tourists, bringing the state’s general personal jurisdiction rules in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., a unanimous court invalidated part of Pennsylvania’s corporate registration statute, holding that corporations that are not incorporated and do not have a principal place of business in Pennsylvania cannot be subject to general personal jurisdiction simply because they have registered to conduct business in the Commonwealth.

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Circuits Split on CMS Vaccine Mandate, Highlighting “Great Significance” of Issue as It Heads to Supreme Court

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Three circuit court decisions issued in the past two weeks have considered the CMS vaccine mandate, bringing the issue – and similar vaccine mandate lawsuits – to the Supreme Court in the final weeks of the year. The CMS mandate generally requires that facilities certified to participate in Medicare or Medicaid ensure their staff are fully vaccinated against COVID unless the employee is exempt for medical or religious reasons. CMS issued the vaccine mandate on November 5, 2021. It went into effect immediately, with staff to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022.

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Foreign Manufacturer Dismissed for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction in the Southern District of Indiana

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Case:

Patterson v. Chiappa Firearms, USA, LTD, No. 1:20-cv-01430-JPH-MG, 2021 WL 4287431 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 21, 2021).

Significance:

  • First Indiana case to apply the “relate to” standard articulated in Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct., 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021).
  • Rejects a broad, unlimited stream of commerce theory for establishing personal jurisdiction.
  • Denied plaintiff jurisdictional discovery, noting that foreign nationals should not be subjected to extensive discovery in order to determine whether personal jurisdiction over them exists.

Case Analysis:

In Patterson v. Chiappa Firearms, the plaintiff, an Indiana citizen, bought a handgun from an online gun seller in Kentucky and had it delivered to Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis. The gun subsequently exploded in Indiana when the plaintiff test-fired it, fracturing the plaintiff’s finger. The gun was manufactured by Chiappa Italy and distributed by Chiappa USA.

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The Rule 702 Toolbox: How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Ninth Circuit?

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There has been much discussion recently about how Rule 702 is in need of a tune-up to better guide district courts’ gatekeeping.  More about that soon.

But a case now pending before the Supreme Court, Monsanto Company v. Hardeman, No. 21-241, demonstrates that it’s not always the fault of the district courts.  (Disclaimer:  This firm (and this author) filed an amicus brief supporting certiorari.)  Sometimes it’s about a lack of stewardship at the circuit level.  Absent direct and unequivocal guidance from the Supreme Court, appellate courts call the tune, and the district courts are required to follow it.  And in the interstices, district judges read the tea leaves and try to follow the circuit court’s leads and signals.  No one likes to get reversed.  Even if the district judges think the circuit has gotten it wrong, they honor the hierarchy and follow the commands of stare decisis, human nature and common sense.

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