Article written by Zohar Levy
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States denied an appeal by drug manufacturers to reverse the 8th Circuit decision to remand a case brought by 123 plaintiffs to Minnesota state court. The plaintiffs claim that hormone replacement therapies caused them, or their next-of-kin, to develop breast cancer. Of the 123 plaintiffs, only seven were non-diverse residents.
Hormone replacement therapy is commonly used to treat symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and mood swings. As the federal district court noted, the plaintiffs were prescribed different drugs, which they took for different lengths of time and in different amounts. For that reason, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ motions to remand, and the 116 diverse plaintiffs came under federal jurisdiction.
However, the 8th Circuit noted that the claims all relate to similar drugs, which are alleged to have caused similar injuries. While it did not find that the joinder of all plaintiffs’ claims was necessarily proper, it did hold that since there was no evidence of “bad faith,” or that plaintiffs joined their claims for the sole purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction, remand was proper. In so holding, the 8th Circuit effectively set out a more stringent test for future litigants seeking to remain in federal court. Not only must there be misjoinder of non-diverse parties, but that misjoinder must be fraudulent in order to defeat diversity jurisdiction.
The manufacturers of the hormone replacement therapy drugs sought to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that “lower courts are in disarray on the issue whether improper joinder is sufficient to sustain federal jurisdiction absent an additional showing of egregiousness, and, indeed, on the broader issue whether improper joinder is a basis for federal jurisdiction at all.” In response, plaintiffs emphasized that the appeal was moot, as the case was already remanded. Ultimately, the Supreme Court denied certiorari. These cases will now proceed in state court, as per the ruling of the 8th Circuit.