73 Am. U. L. Rev. 293 (2023).

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In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its seminal decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, subsequently altering the scope of personal jurisdiction and further narrowing its interpretation of specific jurisdiction. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. held that a state court can only assert specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant when there is a meaningful nexus between the forum state and the claims at issue. The Court purposefully refrained from deciding whether its holding applies to federal courts adjudicating federal class actions. After denying a petition for writ of certiorari to resolve the issue in 2021, the question continues to plague the lower courts.

This Comment provides a comprehensive analysis of how the principles of fair play and substantial justice interpreted by the Court in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. squarely complement extending its holding to federal class actions. The procedural safeguards outlined in Rule 23 do not adequately shield defendants from the constitutional constraints of personal jurisdiction, and Rule 23 inadvertently provides the strength from which classes derive their power. The heightened strength of the plaintiff class necessitates more than Rule 23’s minimum protections, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s holding fills the resulting defendant due process gap. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s holding assures defendants of due process, and courts should extend its claim-forum nexus. Accordingly, this Comment concludes that due process requires Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California to extend to federal class actions. 

* Senior Symposium Editor, American University Law Review, Volume 73.

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