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Judges rule Wisconsin court had personal jurisdiction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has determined a Johnson Superior judge should not have set aside a Wisconsin court’s default judgment involving the sale and delivery of a boat between parties in the two states.

In Harry Kaufmann Motorcars, Inc. v. Schumaker Performance, Inc., No. 41A05-1108-MI-411, the COA reversed a decision to not give full faith and credit to a default judgment finding by a Wisconsin court.

The case involves the purchase of a boat following the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show. Wisconsin-based company HKM agreed to buy the boat from Schumaker Performance and made a $9,000 down payment. A Schumaker representative delivered the boat in April 2007 to Wisconsin and accepted the final payment. After the initial delivery, a Schumaker representative picked the boat up and conducted repairs in Indiana before later returning the boat to HKM in Wisconsin.

 In July 2009, HKM filed a suit in Dane County, Wis., against Schumaker and co-defendant Eliminator Custom Boats alleging breach of contract and warranty claims relating to the boat sale. Schumaker was served with process in Indiana, but declined to appear and later informed the court of its intent. The Wisconsin court entered default judgment against Schumaker and Eliminator Custom Boats in June 2010 for $436,651.71. HKM later filed its complaint to domesticate foreign judgment in the Johnson County trial court, and in May 2011 the Indiana judge granted Schumaker’s motion to dismiss.

Finding that this case involves local services, goods or contracts received by a company in Wisconsin, the Indiana appellate court determined that Wisconsin’s long-arm statute applies to this case. The Indiana panel relied on Capitol Fixture and Woodworking Grp. v. Woodma Distribs., Inc., 432 N.W.2d 647, 649 (Wis. Ct. App. 1988) to determine that two inquiries had been satisfied to give the Wisconsin court personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. Those two factors were the initial contact between HKM and Schumaker, resulting in the purchase, and the boat delivery from Indiana to Wisconsin that included the final payment being accepted in that state.

“As an Indiana seller, Schumaker cannot be surprised that it could possibly expose itself to litigation relating to the sale of its product in a buyer’s state,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the opinion. “In addition, Schumaker arranged for its counsel to communicate with the Wisconsin court, and through its counsel, could likely have arranged for effective local counsel without unreasonably inconveniencing itself. Accordingly, we conclude that the balancing of inconveniences in this instance falls in favor of HKM and conferring personal jurisdiction over Schumaker in the Wisconsin courts.”

The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this appellate opinion.

 

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

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