Accidental Jurisdiction?: Court Finds Making Calling into a State Gives Courts in that State Jurisdiction Over You–Even if You Didn’t Know You Were Calling that State
So real quick on this, there’s a sort of under-the-radar battle out there in TCPAWorld as to whether a caller can be hauled into a court in a far away jurisdiction merely because they placed calls into that jurisdiction.
Some courts hold that merely making a call into a state isn’t enough “purposeful availment” to trigger jurisdiction under the old “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” test. (Non-lawyers: courts can only exercise jurisdiction over people who have agreed to be subject to jurisdiction or who are “fairly” within the court’s grasp–whatever that means.)
Other courts have said that more is required.
But most courts certainly require a caller has to know it is calling a jurisdiction in order to be sued in that jurisdiction.
Well, now we have a court that says otherwise.
In Thomas v. Life Protect 24/7 Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:20-cv-03612, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171881 (S.D. Tex. September 10, 2021) it was held that a Florida caller could be sued in Texas (you don’t see that every day BTW) because the Plaintiff lived in Texas and received the call there. This is true although the Plaintiff did not allege that he owned a number with a Texas area code or knew that it was calling into Texas:
"It thus doesn’t matter whether Life Protect knew in advance that Thomas resided in Texas because certain types of intentional conduct must, by their very nature, manifest their effects beyond the borders of the state in which the defendant acts"
I mean, gees.
Make a call–subject yourself to jurisdiction…wherever.
In the Court’s view, phone calls are such terrible things that making calls automatically triggers jurisdictional coverage wherever they may land–especially when the caller subsequently makes a sale and then ships a package of (un?)wanted stuff to the jurisdiction.
The Court also made short work of Article III harm arguments–if one text causes harm, then lots of calls surely do–and rejects Creasy, which seems to be all the rage.
I don’t like this one at all. Be careful out there folks.