SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, No. 11-17357 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
GSK filed suit against Abbott over a dispute related to a licensing agreement and the pricing of HIV medications. The central issue on appeal was whether equal protection prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in jury selection. GSK contended that a new trial was warranted because Abbott unconstitutionally used a peremptory strike to exclude a juror on the basis of his sexual orientation. The court concluded that GSK had established a prima facie case of intentional discrimination where the juror at issue was the only juror to have identified himself as gay on the record and the subject of the litigation presented an issue of consequence to the gay community. The court held that classifications based on sexual orientation were subject to a heightened scrutiny under United States v. Windsor. The court also held that equal protection prohibits peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The history of exclusion of gays and lesbians from democratic institutions and the pervasiveness of stereotypes about the group leads the court to conclude that Batson v. Kentucky applied to peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The court also concluded that a Batson challenge would be cognizable only once a prospective juror's sexual orientation was established, voluntarily and on the record. The court rejected Abbott's harmless error argument. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.
The court issued a Revised version of this opinion on June 24, 2014.