The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a U.S. District Court can enjoin a state court from certifying a product liability class action after it refused to certify a class in similar cases brought by different Plaintiffs. The Court has agreed to review an Eighth Circuit case involving prescription drug users who alleged injury as the result of taking Baycol, which is manufactured by Bayer. The Plaintiff’s case was one of thousands of similar Baycol suits consolidated in a multidistrict litigation proceeding before the district court. The named Plaintiff sought to represent a class of West Virginia users of the drug.
After the district court denied class certification, two different Baycol users filed a lawsuit in West Virginia state court, also seeking certification of a West Virginia class. In response, Bayer filed a motion under the Anti-Injunction Act for the district court to enjoin the relitigation in state court of the certification of a West Virginia class. Although the Anti-Injunction Act generally prohibits federal courts from interfering in state proceedings, it also permits injunctions necessary to protect federal judgments. The district court in this case enjoined the state court Baycol proceedings.
The Eighth Circuit concluded that the injunction was authorized by the Act and justified under principles of collateral estoppel. The Court concluded that “in the context of [multidistrict litigation] proceedings, certification in a state court of the same class under the same legal theories previously rejected by the federal district court presents an issue sufficiently identical to warrant preclusion under federal common law.” A decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is expected later this term.
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