Consultant Contracts Can Create California Connection

In a recent decision in a DePuy ASR hip system case (DellaCamera et ux. v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. et al., No. CJC-10-004649, Proceeding No. 4649 (Calif. Super. Ct., San Francisco Cty. Nov. 1, 2017), a California Superior Court held that it has specific personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. (DePuy), Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) for nonresident Connecticut-based plaintiffs’ claims on the basis that DePuy and Johnson & Johnson entered into consulting contracts with two California-resident surgeons on the design of the metal-on-metal hip implant device at issue.

This ruling bears noting in the wake of recent landmark personal jurisdiction decisions, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., 582 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrell, 581 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017), and of course Daimler v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), which have armed defendants with tools to limit plaintiff forum shopping by obtaining favorable dismissals for lack of both specific and general personal jurisdiction.

In DePuy, the court latched onto the fact that the nonresident defendants intentionally contracted with in-state consultants who participated in the design of the hip implant product at issue, and that design was part and parcel of plaintiffs’ product liability causes of action. DePuy is not necessarily a novel approach to questions of specific jurisdiction, but it is a relative outlier in the context of the overall trend of cases restricting the ability of plaintiffs to “forum shop” and litigate outside of jurisdictions where defendants are not located and plaintiffs were not actually injured.

Thus, DePuy may foreshadow a new area of focus in which plaintiffs seek to subject defendants to suit in jurisdictions where consulting agreements and other targeted activities are directed, and which are alleged to give rise to plaintiffs’ causes of action.

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorney Anne Gruner, please go to the Duane Morris website.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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