Tuesday, August 4, 2015

California Law's Empire

Moncrief v. Clark, No. H040098 (D5 Jul. 21, 2015)

During negotiations over the sale of some farm equipment, seller’s attorney in Arizona made statements regarding his client’s title to the equipment. Those statements turned out to be untrue, and the deal failed. Purchaser then sued its California-based attorney for legal malpractice. Purchaser’s Lawyer turned and cross claimed against Arizona Attorney for equitable indemnity. Arizona Attorney filed a motion to quash service due to lack of personal jurisdiction, which the trial court granted.

The court of appeal applies the standard three-step analysis for specific personal jurisdiction. (1) Did the defendant purposefully avail himself of the California forum; (2) Does the controversy relate to the defendant’s contacts; and (3) Would notions of fair play and substantial justice be offended by hailing the defendant into court in California? Arizona Attorney argued only a lack of purposeful availment. But AA had called Purchaser’s Lawyer on the phone—while PL was in California—in order to close the deal. AA then followed up with an email reiterating that his clients had clear title. That’s not much, but it’s enough for personal availment in California.


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