District Court Concludes that Alleged Extortion Plot Focused In India Did Not Involve Sufficient Contacts With California To Support Jurisdiction

The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2015 - Personal Jurisdiction | January.12.2015

Life Bliss Network v. Sun TV Ltd., U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, January 12, 2015

Plaintiffs are nonprofit corporations organized to promote certain Hindu teachings. They allege that the defendants, including a television station in India, engaged in a plot to extort money from them by threatening to broadcast, and ultimately broadcasting in India and the U.S., a report the plaintiffs allege resulted in a decline in donations to their cause. The defendants moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, including that the U.S. Constitutional requirements for the application of specific personal jurisdiction had not been met.

The District Court considered whether the defendants had "purposefully availed" themselves of the privilege of doing business in California, so as to satisfy one of the applicable Due Process requirements for the assertion of specific personal jurisdiction. In doing so it applied the "effects test" to ascertain whether the defendants (1) committed an intentional act, (2) expressly aimed at California, and (3) caused harm that the [defendants] knew to be likely to be suffered in California." The District Court found that the test had not been satisfied, principally through its item-by-item analysis and rejection of the evidence plaintiffs submitted in support of their complaint as not being admissible and/or probative. With respect to the second prong of the "effects test," the District Court concluded that mere knowledge by the defendants that the video in question would be rebroadcast in California (among other states) by the Colorado-based DISH Network was insufficient to establish that they had "expressly aimed" their actions at California. The defendants' contract with DISH, moreover, was only a potential link with Colorado. For these reasons, the District Court found that specific personal jurisdiction could not constitutionally be asserted against the defendants.

[Editor's note: The Life Bliss Network case is also discussed under the RICO section of this report.]

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