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COA: Indiana trial court has no personal jurisdiction over New York resident

November 30, 2016

An Indiana trial court cannot assume personal jurisdiction over a woman who lives in New York and has no ties to the Hoosier state, despite the fact that she is being sued by Indiana litigants.

That was the decision of a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday in Judi Simek and Scott Everett v. Christopher Nolan d/b/a Lakeside Farm, LLC, and William P. McCall, III, 10A01-1603-CT-412.

In that case, Christopher Nolan, who does business as Lakeside Farm LLC in Indiana, contacted Scott Everett about the possibility of Everett training two thoroughbred horses, Pacific Palisades and Cinnamon Beach, which were owned by Nolan and William P. McCall III. Nolan and Everett, who trained horses in New York, then entered into an oral contract that provided that Everett would train the horses and assume all costs of training in exchange for 30 percent ownership of the horses and equal distribution of purse money realized by the horses.

In February 2011, Everett told Nolan that Cinnamon Beach had suffered a “career ending” broken foot.
However, Nolan learned in 2012 that Cinnamon Beach had competed in several races outside of Indiana and had won $159,418 in purse money. When Nolan questioned Everett about this, he learned that ownership of the horse had been transferred to Judi Simek.

Nolan and McCall filed a complaint for damages against Everett and Simek in December 2012, alleging breach of an oral contract, fraud and misrepresentation, and alleging that Everett and Simek had “converted the … horse to their own use without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiffs.”

Everett and Simek filed a motion to dismiss, which the Clark Circuit Court denied but did grant leave to renew the motion once Nolan, Everett and Simek were deposed. However, the three were never deposed, so Simek filed a motion to reconsider the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. She submitted four affidavits, including her own, which said that she was not a resident or business owner in the state of Indiana.

The trial court again denied her motion, so Simek appealed. In a Wednesday opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with Simek and reversed the denial of the motion to reconsider the motion to dismiss because the court did not have personal jurisdiction over her.

Judge Terry Crone wrote that Simek had insufficient contact with the state to establish specific jurisdiction, and further had no contact with Indiana whatsoever because she had never been to nor conducted business in Indiana and was not party to the oral contract regarding Cinnamon Beach.

Because there are no facts to show that Simek initiated contact with Indiana, the Clark Circuit Court cannot have personal jurisdiction over her, Crone wrote.

“Simply put, Simek does not have a substantial connection to Indiana, and therefore she cannot be said to have purposely availed herself of the trial court’s jurisdiction,” he wrote.
 

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