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Civil: Court of Appeals Addresses Personal Jurisdiction In eBay Disputes
Posted in Litigation

Today, in Attaway v. Omega, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided an issue of first impression under Indiana law and – in the court’s view – perhaps the rest of the country.  Prior to today, litigants could look to some courts across the nation for guidance as to when personal jurisdiction exists over an out-of-state seller sued by a dissatisfied buyer, but the Indiana Court of Appeals had found no guidance on when personal jurisdiction exists over an out-of-state buyer who rescinds payment after picking up property from the seller’s state.  Indiana has now answered that question.

In Attaway, the plaintiffs, residents of Indiana, listed and sold a Porsche through an eBay auction.  The buyers were from Idaho.  The eBay listing stated that the buyer had to arrange for and pay any delivery costs of the vehicle, in addition to paying the winning bid price.  The Idaho buyers submitted payment through PayPal, charging it to their MasterCard account.  The buyers also hired a company to come to Indiana, pick up the Porsche, and deliver it to Idaho.

According to the court’s findings, the buyers then convinced their credit card company to rescind the payment made to plaintiff-sellers, alleging the car was not as it was advertised.  Thus, at the end of the day, the Idaho buyers had possession of the car without having paid anything to sellers for it.  When the Indiana sellers brought a small claims action against them in Indiana, the buyers moved to dismiss and argued there was no personal jurisdiction over them.  The small claims court denied the motion.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the small claims court.  Finding that all parties agreed general personal jurisdiction did not exist in this case, it analyzed whether specific jurisdiction over the Idaho buyers existed.  The Court found it to be significant that when the Idaho buyers were deciding to bid on and attempt to purchase the Porsche, they were able to see that the seller was from Indiana, the car was in Indiana and that any buyer would have to arrange and pay for delivery from Indiana. 

“By submitting a bid, the [buyers] agreed to appear, in person or by representative, in Indiana to pick up the vehicle,” the Court wrote.  Thus, this was “more than just a single online purchase” because the buyers “purposefully availed themselves of the privilege of conducting activities within the State of Indiana such that they could reasonably anticipate defending a lawsuit in Indiana related to this eBay purchase.”

The Court further held that “it is certainly within the bounds of fair play and substantial justice to allow Indiana to exercise personal jurisdiction over individuals who have entered into a contract with an Indiana resident for the purchase of property located in Indiana, have removed that property from the state of Indiana, and then rescinded payment.”

Judge Brown, in a concurring opinion, also observed that “it would be outside the bounds of fair play and substantial justice to require the seller, who is now without both the vehicle and the money for it, to bring this case in Idaho.”



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