February 15, 2017 News

They have been dubbed “litigation tourists” and according to a 6-year study, they make up about 90 percent of the plaintiffs in pharmaceuticals litigation in California. These plaintiffs with no California connection are flooding the courts and critics argue that they impede the chances of residents who are looking to have their day in court.

Justice group study identifies flux of “litigation tourists”

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in courtAccording to a study recently published by the Civil Justice Association of California, most plaintiffs in California cases against pharmaceutical companies are these so-called “litigation tourists”, who do not reside in California – and have no connection to the state – but choose to file here because of a perceived advantage.

The study looked at product liability lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies in Los Angeles and San Diego between January 2010 and May 2016. It included more than 2,900 cases which included more than 25,500 plaintiffs.

Not only are individual plaintiffs likely to be non-California residents but more than two-thirds of the pharmaceuticals cases do not have any California residents in the entire group of plaintiffs. In nine out of every ten lawsuits included in the study, the plaintiffs were represented by one of 25 law firms and none of those firms had California residents make up more than one third of their plaintiffs.

Incentives for non-California tort plaintiffs

There are a number of likely contributing factors to the rise in non-resident lawsuits:

  1. California has garnered a nationwide reputation as being plaintiff-friendly
  2. California courts apply a different standard from most other states for admissions of expert witness testimony
  3. The state recognizes what has become known as the “innovator liability theory” which allows a manufacturer of a brand-name drug to be held liable when patients are injured by generic alternatives that were manufactured and sold by third parties
  4. Unlike most other states, California has no cap on punitive damages

Last year’s state supreme court case, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, decided in August 2016, appears to apply a stamp of approval to the practice. In that case, 86 Californians were joined by nearly 600 non-residents to sue the defendant drug manufacturer over alleged injuries related to a prescription blood thinner. The out-of-state defendant argued that the California court did not have jurisdiction because none of its operations took place in California. But the California Supreme Court permitted the lawsuit because the company had marketed and distributed the product in the state.

Critics point out that using California’s judicial resources for forum-shopping plaintiffs with no ties to the Golden State does not help residents who already face an uphill battle gaining access to the courts due to the state court budget crisis that has been ongoing since 2008.

California personal injury lawyer

A personal injury, including those caused by pharmaceuticals, can leave victims and their families with physical, financial, and emotional damage. Los Angeles attorney personal injury lawyer Sean Salamati understands the impact of these events and can help you determine your best next legal step. Contact the Salamati Law Firm at 888-259-4060 for a free consultation.

Additional Personal Injury Resources

  1. Civil Justice Association of California, Out-of-State Plaintiffs: Are Out-Of-State Plaintiffs clogging California Courts?, http://cjac.org/what/research/CJAC_Out_of_State_Plaintiffs_Exec_Summary.pdf
  2. California Courts, Jurisdiction and Venue: Where to file a case, http://www.courts.ca.gov/9617.htm
  3. Consumer Attorneys of California, Court Funding: California’s court system is bearing a disproportionate share of state’s budget hardship – denying vital services and preventing many Californians from ever having their day in court, https://www.caoc.org/index.cfm?pg=CourtFunding