Grant McLeod


The Supreme Court’s holding in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court has far-reaching implications for federally filed class actions. While the case concerned a mass action in the California state courts, the opinion contained strong dicta to suggest its principles of specific jurisdiction could be applied to federal class—an entirely different procedural tool with its own host of complexities and problems. In the three years following the decision, federal district courts are split on how to apply the Bristol-Myers Squibb analysis to class actions. A distinct category of courts have applied the analysis to dismiss absent class members’ claims when they allege no connection to the forum where the class action is filed; strongly implying that nationwide class actions can no longer be conducted outside a defendant’s state(s) of general jurisdiction. While federal district courts remain split on the issue, only limited circuit court authority has emerged to clarify the confusion.

This Note analyzes the continuing district court divide and discusses the three main concerns which courts have advanced as reasons to apply Bristol-Myers Squibb to class actions: federalism concerns; a violation of the Rules Enabling Act; and forum shopping concerns. Ultimately, these concerns do not warrant applying the analysis to class actions, as they are either not present in class actions, or they are adequately handled by other procedural devices and safeguards. As such, Bristol Myers Squibb should not be applied to federal class action.