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San Diego: Case By Case: Long-Arm Jurisdiction Falls Short

In San Diego, many residents find services on the internet. There are many search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and many others. Our law firm of Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation suggests you investigate all companies with the San Diego Better Business Bureau before entering into a contract. If the seller is an individual, as in the example below, this would not be an effective strategy. In the below example, the buyer would have to sue not in the San Diego Superior Court [if he was a resident of San Diego County] but in the state where the seller lived. This would be expensive and time consuming. Our firm suggests having an expert inspect any vehicle prior to purchase if you are not an expert in this area. Similarly, if you have a question regarding the law, please feel free to e mail or call our firm. We would be happy to assist.

Robert found just the excavator he wanted advertised on an Internet auction site. Before making the successful bid, he contacted the seller through e-mail and received assurances from her that the product was in good condition. Robert then traveled to the seller’s home, which was several states away, and bought the excavator. When the equipment did not perform as expected and the seller did not respond to Robert’s request for a partial refund, Robert sued the seller in his home state.

Robert’s lawsuit failed because the seller was not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts in Robert’s home state. For a nonresident to bring herself within the reach of a state’s “long-arm” jurisdiction, she must purposefully have benefited from the privilege of doing business in that state. Perhaps the seller could have foreseen that residents of any state might bid on the excavator, but that was insufficient to bring her into the courts in Robert’s state. She had no control over who would ultimately be the winning bidder, nor could she exclude bidders from particular jurisdictions.

Also weighing against subjecting the seller to litigation was the isolated nature of the transaction and the fact that she was not a commercial seller and was using a third party’s site. A different result might have been achieved against a business that used its own website to advertise itself and make transactions across state lines.

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