Personal Jurisdiction Key Component to Dismissed Property Case in Louisiana

Susan Michelle Canon brought suit in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, when her boat caught fire while en route from North Carolina back to Louisiana. The trial court ruled in favor of the sellers, who were from North Carolina, and dismissed them from the suit because of lack of personal jurisdiction. The appellate court upheld this decision. This case is an excellent example of why every lawsuit must be examined for proper jurisdiction to make sure that it is filed properly and that the expected outcome isn’t cut short from the very beginning.

To determine whether personal jurisdiction existed, the court considered a number of factors indicating whether it would be proper to draw the sellers into court in the state of Louisiana. These factors included where the sellers reside, where they do business, where they have registered offices, and whether their business targets a particular region. Their contact with Louisiana must also have been continuous and systematic, to support an assertion of general jurisdiction.

Sellers Raeford and Jennifer Millis here did not have sufficient contacts with Louisiana. They did not live there, do business there, or have a registered office in that state. The boat they sold Ms. Canon was simply listed on the internet, accessible and available to people all over the world. Ms. Canon made the initial contact, and mailed the sale proceeds to a bank in North Carolina, where the Millises live. Ms. Canon also went to North Carolina to execute the bill of sale, using a North Carolina notary, and took possession of the boat in that state. Based on these facts, she could not establish meaningful contacts, ties, or relations between the Millises and Louisiana.

Based on these grounds, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the lower court, agreeing that the Millises did not have minimum contacts with Louisiana.

An important part of litigation strategy is filing in the proper jurisdiction. It is thus essential to find experienced lawyers who can advise on such matters which can make or break a case, and which clients might not even consider.