U.S. top court to hear Bristol-Myers out-of-state injury appeal

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb CoBMY.N in a dispute involving its blood-thinning medication Plavix that could limit where corporations can be sued, the second such case it has taken up in the past week.

The justices will review a California Supreme Court decision allowing that state’s courts to hear claims over Plavix even though the plaintiffs did not live in the state and the company is not based there.

Last Friday, the justices said they would decide a similar appeal by Texas-based BNSF Railway Co of a 2015 Montana Supreme Court ruling allowing out-of-state residents to sue there over injuries that occurred anywhere in BNSF’s nationwide network.

Companies and plaintiffs are engaged in a fight over where lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries should be filed. Companies typically can be sued in a state where they are headquartered or incorporated, as well as where they have significant ties.

The California Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that it could preside over the Plavix case because Bristol-Myers Squibb conducted a national marketing campaign and sold nearly $1 billion of the drug in the state.

Bristol-Myers and pharmaceutical industry groups argue that the ruling allows plaintiffs to bring lawsuits in states with more favorable laws, rather than where the company is based or where the alleged injury occurred.

Bristol-Myers is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York.

The eight underlying lawsuits filed in 2012 against Bristol-Myers and California-based drug distributor McKesson Corp involve 84 California residents and 575 non-residents, alleging Plavix increased their risk of stroke, heart attack and internal bleeding.

The BNSF case involves a pair of lawsuits brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which permits injured railroad employees to sue for compensation from their companies.

BNSF, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N, argued that the Montana courts did not have jurisdiction over the cases. The Montana Supreme Court in May ruled that state courts there can hear cases against BNSF without violating due process rights of the U.S. Constitution because the company does business in the state.

Reporting by Erica Teichert in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham