Briest v. Wyeth, Docket No. MID-L-1045-06

The lower court ruled that life-long Virginia resident, plaintiff Laura Briest, could bring suit against New Jersey defendants in New Jersey. Briest had received an FDA-approved drug in Virginia, and allegedly sustained injuries in Virginia from that drug, but would be barred from recovery in Virginia.

NJCJI filed a joint amicus brief with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and the Health Care Institute of New Jersey arguing that the lower court erred when it dismissed defendant pharmaceutical companies’ motion for summary judgment. The brief argued that the lower court misapplied the balancing test the New Jersey Supreme Court developed for choice-of-law decisions by placing too much weight on the fact that the defendants’ headquarters are in New Jersey. Emphasis on headquarter location puts New Jersey businesses at a disadvantage and could encourage forum shopping, particularly in class action suits.

The underlying case was combined with all other mass tort cases concerning hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and is still pending. Defendants lost their choice-of-law motion in a joint order for all cases, but a favorable summary judgment decision in one of the New Jersey law based cases altered the defendants’ views on the merit of New Jersey law being applied in all cases. The latest action in the joint case is a decision by Judge Jamie D. Happas agreeing with a motion filed on behalf of all defendants in the various HRT cases that requested New Jersey law be applied in all cases.