We wrote recently that California’s courts have never met a case they did not like. We were speaking somewhat tongue in cheek of course, but still California remains a destination for litigation tourists trying to take advantage of laws and procedures that many view as plaintiff friendly. One bulwark against blatant forum shopping is personal jurisdiction under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bauman and Bristol-Myers Squibb cases, the latter reversing the California Supreme Court, which restored some measure of discipline to jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants.
Another potential bulwark is choice of law. That is to say, even when a plaintiff sues in California, the applicable choice-of-law rules might compel the application of another state’s law, which could doom the plaintiff’s claims.
That is what happened this week in Nelson v. F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. 21-cv-10074, 2022 WL 17259056 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 28, 2022) (to be published in F. Supp. 3d), where a Florida resident and Army veteran used a generic prescription drug while stationed in Kentucky and overseas and allegedly suffered complications. But he chose to sue in California. Why? Because the manufacturer of the branded version of the drug (not the generic version that the plaintiff actually used) was based in California at the time he filed (having relocated from New Jersey), and California is one of a very few states that allows innovator liability—i.e., holding an innovator/branded manufacturer potentially liable for a generic product that it did not make, did not sell, and from which it did not make any profit.