Personal jurisdiction provides individuals with some sense of predictability as to which courts they can be forced to defend an action in. As a firm that deals with an extensive amount of real estate litigation, our clients often own real estate in many states where they do not reside. Similarly, our clients often deal with others who own real estate throughout many states. Sometimes, a party’s California real estate property may be the only connection to the state. Naturally, the question arises as to whether California real property may be sufficient to establish jurisdiction in our state courts. This entry will deal with when personal jurisdiction may be established simply through the ownership of property.
General Personal Jurisdiction Analysis
In order for a court to exercise its power in a matter, it must have personal jurisdiction over the parties to the action. Absent personal jurisdiction, a court cannot enforce its judgments against a particular party. The requirement for personal jurisdiction forces a party bringing an action to show certain criteria are present before a court will force a defendant to come to a forum state to defend itself. A party is subject to the personal jurisdiction of a court when served while physically present within the forum state, is domiciled in the forum state, appears in the action, contractually consents, or has “minimum contacts” within the forum state.
States may exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresidents when some form of minimum contacts exist within the forum state. The Supreme Court of the United States has articulated that there must be “minimum contacts with the forum such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice’”. (International Shoe Co. v. Washington 326 U.S. 310 (1945).) The trick comes in determining which contacts would satisfy this standard.
States have the ability to decide the degree to which jurisdiction can be found within their courts. State courts articulate these parameters through, what is called, a “long-arm statute”. Looking to a state’s long arm statute is the first step in determining whether personal jurisdiction exists.
California has enacted a broad statute that establishes jurisdiction to the extent permitted by the Constitution. (CCP § 410.10; Sanders v. CEG Corp (1979) 95 CA3d 779, 783.) In other words, the state will not put any extra restraints, on establishing personal jurisdiction, that have not already been established in the Constitution
When Property Creates a “Minimum Contact” Sufficient to Establish Personal Jurisdiction
Property ownership often establishes minimum contacts in actions directed toward property, rather than a particular person. (Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 US 186, 207(1977).) In an action to determine title, someone who owns property within a state will normally have a significant contact with that state. (Shaffer v. Heitner, supra, 433 US at 208.) Similarly, real estate owned as marital property within California suggests a “contact”, giving rise to jurisdiction to determine a nonresident spouse’s interest in the property. (Khan v. Sup. Ct. (1988 204 CA3d 1168,, 1179.) Additionally, a court is more likely to favor jurisdiction where an injury is suffered on real property that is owned in the forum state, regardless of whether the owner is an absentee owner. (Shaffer v. Heitner, supra, 433 US at 208.)
Clients who can foresee whether jurisdiction will be proper will be in an advantageous position in both bringing and defending actions. Schorr Law analyzes contingencies for our clients before situations arise. Accordingly, we pride ourselves on not only skillfully guiding our clients throughout every stage of the litigation process, but keeping our clients both informed and prepared even before litigation.
For more information or help with your dispute, contact Schorr Law, APC, www.schorr-law.com, 310-954-1877, firstname.lastname@example.org