SMITH v. BAYER CORP.
131 S.Ct. 2368 (2011)
180 L. Ed. 2d 341
Keith SMITH, et al., Petitioners,
Supreme Court of the United States.
Argued January 18, 2011.
Decided June 16, 2011.
Carter G. Phillips, Eric D. McArthur, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC, Susan A. Weber, James R.M. Hemmings, Sidley Austin LLP, Chicago, IL, Philip S. Beck, Adam L. Hoeflich, Carolyn J. Frantz, Andrew C. Baak, Bartlit Beck Herman, Palencher & Scott LLP, Chicago, IL, Joshua J. Fougere, Sidley Austin LLP, for Respondent.
Mark A. Boling, Law Offices of Mark Boling, Lake Forest, CA, for Amicus Martin Murray.
Justice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.*
In this case, a Federal District Court enjoined a state court from considering a plaintiff's request to approve a class action. The District Court did so because it had earlier denied a motion to certify a class in a related case, brought by a different plaintiff against the same defendant alleging similar claims. The federal court thought its injunction appropriate to prevent relitigation of the issue it had decided.
We hold to the contrary. In issuing this order to a state court, the federal court exceeded its authority under the "relitigation exception" to the Anti-Injunction Act. That statutory provision permits a federal court to enjoin a state proceeding only in rare cases, when necessary to "protect or effectuate [the federal court's] judgments." 28 U.S.C. § 2283. Here, that standard was not met for two reasons. First, the issue presented in the state court was not identical to the one decided in the federal tribunal. And second, the plaintiff in the state court did not have the requisite connection to the federal suit to be bound by the District Court's judgment.I
Because the question before us involves the effect of a former adjudication on this case, we begin our statement of the facts not with this lawsuit, but with another. In August 2001, George McCollins sued respondent Bayer Corporation in the Circuit Court of Cabell County, West Virginia, asserting various state-law claims arising from Bayer's sale of an allegedly hazardous prescription drug called Baycol (which Bayer withdrew from the market that same month). McCollins contended that Bayer had violated West Virginia's consumer-protection statute and the company's express and implied warranties by selling him a defective product. And pursuant to West Virginia Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (2011), McCollins asked the state court to certify a class of West Virginia residents who had also purchased Baycol, so that the case could proceed as a class action.
Approximately one month later, the suit now before us began in a different part of West Virginia. Petitioners Keith Smith and Shirley Sperlazza (Smith for short) filed state-law claims against Bayer, similar to those raised in McCollins' suit, in the Circuit Court of Brooke County, West Virginia. And like McCollins, Smith asked the court to certify under West Virginia's Rule 23 a class of Baycol purchasers residing in the State. Neither Smith nor McCollins knew about the other's suit.
In January 2002, Bayer removed McCollins' case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441. The case was then transferred to the District of Minnesota pursuant to a preexisting order of the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, which had consolidated all federal suits involving Baycol (numbering in the tens of thousands) before a single District Court Judge. See § 1407. Bayer, however, could not remove Smith's case to federal court because Smith had sued several West Virginia defendants in addition to Bayer, and so the suit lacked complete diversity. See § 1441(b).1 Smith's suit
thus remained in the state courthouse in Brooke County.