Jones lived in California, and for four years received weekly psychotherapy and dream counseling over the telephone from Williams, a licensed therapist living in New Mexico. Williams made several trips to California at Jones’s request to provide additional treatment. For one year, Jones also received shamanic counseling over the phone from Williams’s wife, Ritzman. Jones ceased treatment and sued Williams and Ritzman for medical malpractice in California. The defendants moved to have the complaint dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.
In examining the facts of the case, the court found that the defendants had sufficient contacts for establishing specific jurisdiction with respect to a medical malpractice case arising out of their treatment of Jones. The court said that sufficient contacts existed for in personam jurisdiction in a specific case when (1) the nonresident defendant purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state by some affirmative act or conduct; (2) the plaintiff’s claim arises out of or results from the defendant’s forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. In this case, the defendants engaged in counseling in the state, both in person and via the telephone; the lawsuit arose out of the counseling that occurred in that state; and the defendants should have recognized that in light of their providing services in that state they would be subject to suit there for activities arising from providing that service.
Each state has its own minimum-contact requirements, but most state statutes hold that acts like committing a tort or doing business in the state are sufficient to allow the state to serve a defendant. In the opening scenario, the company sold products in Kentucky, and its products caused an injury in that state. These two facts were sufficient minimum contacts to allow the Kentucky court to serve Caterpillar, even though it was an out-of-state company. Compare the facts of the Caterpillar case to those in the Case Nugget, where the court found that the contacts were sufficient to give the court jurisdiction over the out-of-state resident, even when the primary contact in the state was over the telephone.
In contrast to the situations in the Case Nugget and in the opening scenario, the Florida appellate court did not find minimum contacts with that state to enable a foreign corporation to sue Columbia University, located in New York City, for a tort that allegedly occurred in New York. The court found that the fact that Columbia had alumni associations in Florida, owned some interactive classrooms in that state, and offered some online classes to residents did not constitute sufficient minimum contacts for a lawsuit in which none of the tortuous acts were alleged to have occurred in the state.3
If a defendant has property in a state, a plaintiff may file suit against the defendant’s property instead of the owner. For example, suppose a Utah resident had not paid property taxes on a piece of land she owned in Idaho. Idaho courts have in rem jurisdictionThe power of a court over the property or status of an out-of-state defendant located within the court’s jurisdiction area. (Latin for “jurisdiction over the thing”) over the property. Thus, an Idaho state court has the power to seize the property and sell it to pay the property taxes in an in rem proceeding.
Courts can also gain quasi in rem jurisdictionA type of jurisdiction exercised by a court over an out-of-state defendant’s property that is within the jurisdictional boundaries of the court; applies to personal suits against a defendant in which the property is not the source of the conflict but is sought as compensation by the plaintiff. Also called attachment jurisdiction., or attachment jurisdiction, over a defendant’s property unrelated to the plaintiff’s claim. For example, suppose Charlie, a Massachusetts resident, ran a red light while he was vacationing in California and collided with Jessica’s car. Suppose further that Jessica suffered extensive injuries from the accident and successfully sued Charlie for $200,000 in a California state court. The California court can exercise quasi in rem jurisdiction over Charlie’s California vacation home by seizing it, selling it, and transferring $200,000 to Jessica to satisfy her judgment against Charlie. If Charlie’s vacation home is worth more than $200,000, however, the court must return the excess proceeds to Charlie.
ETHICAL DECISION MAKING
What is the purpose of the decision that Waffle House made in the facts leading to this case?