Personal jurisdiction is the power a court has to make a decision regarding the defendant in a case. The law requires that the defendant has certain minimum contacts with the forum state for the court to exercise its power over the defendant. This week, the Second Department decided Fanelli v Latman, ___AD3d___, 2022 NY Slip Op 00849 (2d Dept. Feb. 9, 2022), finding that NY courts did not have personal jurisdiction over Florida defendants that had contracted with NY plaintiffs.[1]

In Fanelli, plaintiffs lived in NY and claimed they contracted with the defendants, domiciled in Florida, to develop and deliver software for the creation of a “Dating App,” in exchange for $100,000. Plaintiffs claimed they paid $100,000, but the defendants never delivered the Dating App. Plaintiffs commenced this action in NY to recover damages for breach of contract and fraud. The defendants each filed separate motions to dismiss under CPLR 3211(a) arguing that the New York court lacked personal jurisdiction over each. The lower court denied the motions and defendants appealed.

Plaintiffs opposed the motions by arguing that jurisdiction over both defendants was proper under the court’s power to assert “general all-purpose jurisdiction or specific conduct-linked jurisdiction over a particular defendant.”[2] The facts alleged also did not support the conclusion that defendants’ contacts with New York were so “continuous and systematic” as to render it “essentially at home” in New York.[3]

The court further held that NY could not assert long-arm jurisdiction[4] over defendants for several reasons. First, the location of the original event which caused the injury was Florida, not New York; plaintiff’s feeling the economic injury in New York, alone, is insufficient.[5] Second, defendants’ website was not specifically directed toward New York residents or businesses. Third, plaintiffs started the contact with defendants and solicited their services in app designing. Fourth, plaintiffs failed to establish that defendants’ website was more than informational and there was no indication that it permitted any users to purchase goods or services from defendants or allowed any interaction. Finally, the contract and defendants’ communications with the plaintiffs in New York regarding the work did not show purposeful activities by defendants to avail themselves of the benefits and privileges of NY’s laws.[6]

Accordingly, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court ruling and granted defendants motions to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

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[1] The full Decision can be found here.

[2] Fanelli v Latman, ___AD3d___, 2022 NY Slip Op 00849, *1; see CPLR 301 and 302(a).

[3] Fanelli v Latman, ___AD3d___, 2022 NY Slip Op 00849, *1 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

[4] CPLR 302 can be found here.

[5] Id. (citations omitted).

[6] Id. (citations omitted).

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