The Indiana Court of Appeals found a plaintiff’s claims that personal jurisdiction existed in Indiana over a Michigan company involved in a lawsuit about his damaged boat didn’t hold water.
Hamilton County resident Dr. Dev Brar filed a small claims lawsuit in Hamilton County seeking $6,000 for damages to the bow of his boat. The boat, which docked in Chicago from May to October, was stored at Wolf’s Marine in Michigan for the winter. When Brar’s personal agent, Thomas Leonard – who found the facility to store the boat – retrieved the boat from Wolf’s in May 2012, he said the bow was damaged.
Wolf’s sought to have the case dismissed and filed in Berrien County, Mich. The trial court found it had personal jurisdiction over Wolf’s and denied Wolf’s motion to dismiss.
On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, rejecting Brar’s argument that merely entering into a contract with an Indiana resident subjects an out-of-state defendant to suit in Indiana.
The judges found this case to be similar to ones in which a hotel or other attraction advertises its services to residents in other states, a person decides to visit that hotel or attraction, he or she sustains injury at the hotel or attraction, and then attempts to sue the hotel or attraction in his or her home state.
“Additionally, the mere fact that a plaintiff executes a contract in his or her home state and sends the contract back to an out-of-state defendant does not confer personal jurisdiction over the defendant,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Wolf's Marine, Inc. v. Dev Brar, 29A02-1303-SC-293.
“Wolf’s deliberate contacts with Indiana were limited to general advertising, emailing a form contract to Leonard at Leonard’s request, and invoicing and receiving payment from Leonard. We hold this was not sufficient ‘purposeful availment’ of the privilege of conducting business in Indiana by Wolf’s so as to permit Indiana to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over it with respect to Dr. Brar’s cause of action.”