Some legal matters are more serious than others. Product liability cases fall into this category. These cases often involve situations that can or have exposed numerous people, including Pennsylvania residents, to danger.
Pennsylvania residents recently decided to join one lawsuit against Pfizer. There were 261 plaintiffs in all. They filed their action in a state other than Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs, who are all women, argue that taking Lipitor exposed them to the risk of developing diabetes, which is a risk that the pharmaceutical company never disclosed.
Although the case raises serious concerns about taking Lipitor, the judge presiding over the matter nevertheless decided to dismiss the product liability action based on jurisdictional grounds. The judge found that the plaintiffs sued in the wrong federal court. More specifically, the plaintiffs failed to outline the court’s jurisdiction over the defendant.
In order for a matter to proceed in a court, including one in Pennsylvania, the court must have jurisdiction over the parties. Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to adjudicate the specific case — a court cannot decide a case if it does not have power over the parties.
To demonstrate that a court has jurisdiction over a defendant like Pfizer, there are several facts that plaintiffs must state in their legal documents. A court only has jurisdiction over a company if it is sitting in the state in which the company is incorporated and has its principal place of business. Basically, a court assesses whether the defendant has sufficient contacts with the state in questions.
If another state shares the majority of contacts with the defendant, rather than the one in which the lawsuit is pending, the court will have to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
A dismissal does not necessarily prevent the plaintiffs from pursuing their lawsuit. They may be able to re-file the case in another state in order to pursue remedies for the dangers to which they were exposed.
Source: The Madison-St. Clair Record, “Gilbert dismisses Lipitor suit saying 261 plaintiffs sued in wrong court,” Mar. 6, 2014