District Court finds Personal Jurisdiction over Defendant in Contract and Tort Case from Sale of Jewelry

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

Kazanjian Bros. Inc. v. Jaziri, United States District Court for the Central District of California, February 3, 2015

Plaintiff Kazanjian was a California corporation operating a high-end jewelry business. Defendant Jaziri was a French citizen residing in Paris, France, who managed a retail boutique. Kazanjian claimed that it sold a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond bracelet to Jaziri, who agreed to purchase it for $660,000. The bracelet was delivered in France, and the payments were to be made in two installments to Kazanjian's bank account in Beverly Hills, CA.

Kazanjian alleged that Jaziri never made the payments as scheduled, though she finally made two wire transfers to Plaintiff's bank account totaling $200,000. Kazarian sued for breach of written and oral contract, fraud, conversion, and related claims.

The District Court explained that a plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating personal jurisdiction over a defendant but, absent discovery or an evidentiary hearing, it need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction for a case to proceed. The District Court also explained that California's long-arm statute is coextensive with federal Due Process requirements, and so the jurisdictional analyses under state law and federal due process are the same.

The District Court first considered specific personal jurisdiction, asking whether (1) the non-resident defendant purposefully directed activities to the forum or purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum; (2) the claim arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. The District Court observed that, under the first prong of this analysis, the "purposeful availment" test is most often used in contract suits, while the "purposeful direction" test is most often used in tort suits. Here, because Plaintiff's intentional tort claims arise out of the contract for the necklace, the court used a purposeful availment analysis.

The District Court found that Jaziri purposefully availed herself of the California forum by contacting Kazanjian multiple times in California to inquire into purchasing items from Plaintiff, and understanding that her purchases were being made in California; she should therefore have anticipated that she might be subject to liability in California for allegedly failing to pay for items as agreed. The District Court also found that but-for Jaziri's contacts with Plaintiff in California and the existing relationship between the parties, the sale—and hence the injury to Kazanjian—would not have occurred, and therefore the suit arose out of contacts with the forum.

Finally, the District Court concluded that the assertion of jurisdiction over Jaziri was reasonable, considering: (1) the extent of purposeful interjection into the forum state; (2) the burden on the defendant; (3) the conflict with the sovereignty of the defendant's state; (4) the forum state's interest in the suit; (5) the most efficient judicial resolution of the dispute; (6) the convenience and effectiveness of relief for the plaintiff; and (7) the existence of an alternative forum. Here, the District Court found that the burden on Jaziri and existence of an alternative forum weighed against finding jurisdiction, that efficient judicial resolution and sovereignty conflict were neutral factors, and that purposeful interjection, forum state's interest, and Kazanjian's interest weighed in favor of finding jurisdiction. Balancing all factors, the court found that there was personal jurisdiction over Jaziri in California.

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