Thousands of personal injuries claims could be made against American companies in the Irish courts because of a landmark US Supreme Court decision.
The ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. vs. Superior Court of California is understood to effectively prevent people outside the US seeking compensation in the US courts unless the harm was caused there.
However, claimants worldwide could bring claims in Ireland instead.
The Supreme Court held that the California courts lacked specific jurisdiction to entertain claims from non-resident plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit brought over a medication’s alleged side effects.
The court said: “It does not prevent the California and out-of-state plaintiffs from joining together in a consolidated action in the States that have general jurisdiction over BMS. Alternatively, the nonresident plaintiffs could probably sue together in their respective home States.”
The court’s ruling attempts to clamp down on claimants bringing litigation in the states with higher compensation payouts.
Some lawyers now believe that, deprived of that option, claimants from countries as far as Australia and New Zealand will bring cases in Ireland in a bid to seek higher compensation payments than at home.
An Irish Solicitor, who was recently elected to the board of governors of the American Association for Justice, said: “All of a sudden all of the multinationals who have registered here could be faced with lawsuits here rather than in the United States.”
He said claimants anywhere would be “perfectly entitled” to sue an Ireland-registered US company in the Irish courts.
He warned that could cause serious delays in the Irish courts because there is no dedicated system for dealing with class action lawsuits.