As is common in today’s Internet-driven society, the plaintiff purchased a car from a Texas car dealership through the eBay website. He reviewed the vehicle information on eBay from his computer in Missouri, and he submitted his “buy it now” bid from Missouri as well. The plaintiff also signed the retail installment sales contract for the vehicle in Missouri. The vehicle was thereafter delivered to the plaintiff at his Missouri address.
After the plaintiff purchased the vehicle, substantial repairs were needed on the vehicle. When the Texas dealership refused to pay for the repairs, the plaintiff filed suit in Missouri. The dealership filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the trial court granted the dealership’s motion. The court found that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the dealership because the use of “[a]n on-line auction process such as eBay does not rise to the level of purposeful conduct necessary to assert specific personal jurisdiction.” The plaintiff appealed the decision.
Somewhat surprisingly, although there have been cases in which Missouri courts have considered personal jurisdiction in the context of Internet use, no case directly addressing personal jurisdiction resulting from the use of online auction sites had previously been decided by a Missouri court.
On appeal, the Missouri appellate court noted that under Missouri’s long-arm statute, Section 506.500, RSMo., the Texas dealership’s conduct clearly fell within the acts enumerated in that statute. However, the court’s analysis did not end there. As the court reminded us, “The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment further requires a non-resident defendant to have sufficient minimum contacts with Missouri so the maintenance of the suit in Missouri does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
In considering whether the dealership had sufficient minimum contacts with Missouri, the appellate court considered five factors: (1) the nature and quality of the dealership’s contacts with the state; (2) the quantity of those contacts; (3) the relationship of the cause of action to those contacts; (4) the interest in Missouri in providing a forum for its residents; and (5) the convenience to the parties. Ultimately, the Missouri appellate court found that the dealership did not have sufficient minimum contacts with Missouri to satisfy due process. The court noted that the plaintiff did not provide any evidence that the dealership engaged in conduct intentionally designed to solicit business from customers in Missouri. For instance, the dealership did not advertise in Missouri, nor did it have any employees or offices in Missouri. At the end of the day, the court said, “this was a single transaction on eBay, and the fact that [the plaintiff], as purchaser, was a resident of Missouri, without more, does not constitute sufficient purposeful conduct to satisfy minimum contacts in this particular case.