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Supreme Court Restricts Where Nationwide Companies Can Be Sued


The U.S. Supreme Court recently restricted where injury lawsuits may be filed, and at the end of the day, the big corporations were offered the upper hand. The new rules affect plaintiffs of both future and current personal injury lawsuits.

The Supreme Court ruled that, in order for a state to hear claims against a company, the company must be based in the state or the injury must have occurred there.

BNSF Railway Company


Two lawsuits greatly affected by this ruling are cases against the Texas-based BNSF Railway Company regarding personal injuries. One lawsuit concerns a fuel truck driver who sued the company over an injured knee which resulted from a slip-and-fall injury in 2011. In the other lawsuit, the widow of a railroad employee claimed that her husband was exposed to chemicals that lead to kidney cancer, which took his life.

The new ruling from the Supreme Court worked against these cases by throwing out the lower court decision that allowed out-of-state residents to sue over injuries that occurred in the company’s nationwide network.

Both lawsuits were filed in Montana, but even though BNSF has 2,000 employees in Montana and more than 2,000 miles of track, BNSF is based in Texas, and neither employee’s injuries occurred in Montana, so the new ruling prohibits the lawsuits from moving forward in the Montana court system.

The Trouble with Suing a Nationwide Company


As in most cases, the big companies and the victims see the new rules from completely different points of view. Most companies claim to be thankful for the new 8 to 1 ruling. They claim that plaintiffs’ tend to “shop” for courts when a state allows it, and they hope that these new rules may curb this ability.

For many victims, these rules seem like a restriction on their freedom and their right to compensation for personal injuries. They argue that corporations are simply trying to limit the amounts they may have to pay in compensation dues by eliminating the plaintiffs’ right to a court.

While plaintiffs were denied their fight against a Texas based company in Montana, plaintiffs who filed in Missouri were allowed their day in court for their injustice because of Missouri’s “joinder rule.” This rule allows plaintiffs from both in and out of state to join together in order to sue in the state of Missouri. This helped many residents in a fight against New Jersey-based company Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers that some Johnson & Johnson products using talcum powder may cause ovarian cancer.

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