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State ex rel. Bayer Corp. v. Moriarty

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

December 19, 2017




         Bayer Corporation, Bayer Healthcare LLC, Bayer Essure Inc., and Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc., (collectively, "Bayer"), seek a writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to dismiss nonresident Plaintiffs' claims in a petition alleging personal injuries from Essure, a female contraceptive device Bayer manufactures and distributes. Bayer alleges Missouri has no specific personal jurisdiction over 85 out of 92 Plaintiffs who are nonresidents of Missouri and who have not alleged their injury occurred in Missouri. Bayer further alleges Missouri does not have general jurisdiction as Bayer is neither incorporated in nor has its principal place of business here, and Bayer is not "at home" in Missouri. This Court agrees the petition did not assert any recognized basis for personal jurisdiction over Bayer with respect to nonresident Plaintiffs and vacates the circuit court's order overruling Bayer's motion to dismiss.

         Plaintiffs assert the claims of nonresident Plaintiffs should not be dismissed because nonresident Plaintiffs will seek leave to file an amended petition asserting an additional basis of specific jurisdiction over Bayer based on its conduct of clinical trials and marketing of Essure in Missouri. Plaintiffs allege they also will seek jurisdictional discovery on these issues. Bayer counters these allegations are equally without merit to those in the initial petition as the proposed amended allegations simply will seek to exercise general jurisdiction under another name and, therefore, ask the circuit court be directed to grant the motion to dismiss. Bayer further asserts the proposed discovery is abusive.

         This Court's preliminary writ extended solely to the circuit court's overruling of Bayer's motion to dismiss. The circuit court did not have the proposed amended petition before it when it made that ruling. The circuit court's order overruling the motion to dismiss, therefore, could not have been based on claims made in a petition not yet filed or on grounds for jurisdiction not yet proposed. It is for the circuit court in the first instance to consider whether the amended petition provides a basis for specific jurisdiction and to evaluate whether the requested discovery is necessary, as well as whether and what sort of a protective order is appropriate as to the nature and extent of the discovery.

         Accordingly, without addressing the merits of Plaintiffs' proposed amended petition or proposed discovery or Bayer's assertions as to the merits of these matters, this Court makes its preliminary writ permanent and directs the circuit court to vacate its order overruling the motion to dismiss.


         On August 13, 2016, Plaintiffs initiated an action against Bayer in the St. Louis circuit court to recover damages for personal injuries they allegedly experienced from their use of Essure, a medical device Bayer manufactures and distributes. Of the 92 Plaintiffs, only seven are Missouri residents. The remaining 85 Plaintiffs are not Missouri residents and do not allege they used Essure in this state or were injured in Missouri. Moreover, none of the Bayer defendants is incorporated in or has its principal place of business in Missouri. Bayer is also not "at home" in Missouri.

         Bayer moved to dismiss nonresident Plaintiffs' claims or, alternatively, to sever and transfer those claims to appropriate venues, contending Bayer is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri with respect to nonresident Plaintiffs. Bayer also argued Plaintiffs' claims are preempted under the Medical Device Amendments of 1976, 21 U.S.C. sections 36Ok(a) and 337(a), to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. section 301 et seq.

         In opposition to Bayer's motion to dismiss, nonresident Plaintiffs argued they had specific and general jurisdiction over Bayer on the grounds stated in their original petition, including that Bayer is subject to "both general and specific personal jurisdiction" in Missouri because Bayer "consented to jurisdiction in the State by way of registering to do business therein, " "engaged in substantial business activities in the State, " "conducted business in Missouri, " "derived substantial revenue in Missouri by marketing Essure to women" in Missouri, and allegedly "committed torts in whole or in part against Plaintiffs in Missouri." They further argued in their response to the motion to dismiss that Bayer is subject to "piggyback" specific jurisdiction with respect to nonresident Plaintiffs' claims because "Bayer does not challenge personal jurisdiction as to the Missouri Plaintiffs' claims" and "the non-Missouri Plaintiffs alleged[] [they] were implanted with the same product the Defendants marketed and sold in Missouri and were injured by the same conduct allegedly injuring the Missouri Plaintiffs."

         The circuit court overruled Bayer's motion to dismiss in December 2016 on the ground Bayer "is present or has consented to jurisdiction" in Missouri because "[a] corporation has long been considered 'present' within the state when its agent is served with process in the state." In response to the circuit court's order, Bayer sought a writ of prohibition in the court of appeals, which was denied. Bayer then sought a writ of prohibition from this Court. This Court issued its preliminary writ in July 2017, ordering the circuit court to show cause "why a writ of prohibition should not issue prohibiting [it] from doing anything other than vacat[ing] the December 20, 2016, order" that had overruled Bayer's motion to dismiss.


         This Court has discretion to issue and determine original remedial writs. Mo. Const, art. V, §4.1. "Prohibition is an original proceeding brought to confine a lower court to the proper exercise of its jurisdiction." State ex rel. Lebanon Sch. Dist. R-III v. Winfrey, 183 S.W.3d 232, 234 (Mo. banc 2006). "The extraordinary remedy of a writ of prohibition is available: (1) to prevent the usurpation of judicial power when the trial court lacks authority or jurisdiction; (2) to remedy an excess of authority, jurisdiction or abuse of discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended; or (3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted." State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W.3d 41, 45 (Mo. banc 2017), quoting, State ex rel. Mo. Pub. Def. Comm'n v. Waters, 370 S.W.3d 592, 603 (Mo. banc 2012). Therefore, "[prohibition is the proper remedy to prevent further action of the trial court where personal jurisdiction of the defendant is lacking." Id., quoting, State ex rel. William RanniAssocs., Inc. v. Hartenbach, 742 S.W.2d 134, 137 (Mo. banc 1987). "However, prohibition is only proper 'when usurpation of jurisdiction... is clearly evident.'" Id., quoting, State ex rel. Tarrasch v. Crow, 622 S.W.2d 928, 937 (Mo. banc 1981).


         "[P]ersonal jurisdiction refers quite simply to the power of a court to require aperson to respond to a legal proceeding that may affect the person's rights or interests."J.C.W. ex rel. Webb v. Wyciskalla,275 S.W.3d 249, 253 (Mo. banc 2009). It is a due process requirement limiting the power of courts over litigants. Id. "The basis of a court's personal jurisdiction over a corporation can be general-that is, all-purposejurisdiction - or it can be specific - that is, conduct-linked jurisdiction."Norfolk, 512 S.W.3d at 46. A "defendant [can also] waive jurisdictional objections by consenting to personal jurisdiction." Id. But "[w]hen personal jurisdiction is contested, it is the plaintiff who must shoulder the burden of establishing that defendant's ...

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