In the published case of Joseph Jardim v. Michael Edward Overley, A-1073-18T3, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed a trial court’s ruling which had declined to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, in a suit arising from a contract for the sale of a vintage automobile. The court’s opinion discussed what necessary contacts must exist in order for jurisdiction to arise from an Internet transaction.
Ultimately, the court’s conclusion was that the transaction at issue, a “one-shot affair,” was insufficient to confer specific jurisdiction over the defendant seller of a vintage automobile. The defendant, Michael Overley, posted a sales listing for a 1960 Buick Invicta on the Internet, on a website entitled Hemmings.com, which is a used vehicle marketplace. The listing was posted “to whomever was willing to purchase it, wherever they may be.” The seller was a lifelong resident of California, and had not previously sold vehicles through the Hemmings website. Defendant was not in the business of selling cars.
A few days after the listing was posted, an agent for the plaintiff sent an e-mail to the defendant making an offer on the vehicle. After four brief subsequent emails, Plaintiff alleged that he personally spoke to the seller about the vehicle, and it was made clear that the buyer was in New Jersey. In addition, the buyer made clear that financing for the transaction would be through a New Jersey credit union, and that the seller would have to mail title paperwork to this credit union to complete the transaction. A Bill of Sale was executed, which contained barebones information, and no reference to forum selection. Plaintiff ultimately arranged for a transport company to bring the vehicle from California to New Jersey. Upon its arrival, Plaintiff was dissatisfied with the vehicle, and alleged he had been misled by the seller regarding the vehicle’s condition, incurring substantial damages.
The Appellate Division ultimately followed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding, Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011 (9th Cir. 2008), arising out of a transaction using the website eBay. There, the Ninth Circuit declined to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based on a single eBay sale of a car, and noted that all comparable authorities that ultimately exercised jurisdiction based on eBay transactions were based on a broader use of eBay for commercial activity – not a single transaction. Further relying on Ragonese v. Rosenfeld, 318 N.J. Super. 63 (Law Div. 1998), the court noted that the defendant had not targeted New Jersey buyers, and aside from knowing that the buyer was ultimately located in New Jersey, had done nothing to “purposefully avail” himself of the jurisdiction of New Jersey’s courts. For this reason, the court declined to exercise personal jurisdiction, observing that “a nonresident car owner used a general website marketplace to advertise the vehicle, accepted an offer from a buyer located in another state, and had the buyer arrange for the purchased car to be shipped to his destination. Under such circumstances we do not believe defendant Overley would reasonably anticipate he was submitting himself to the jurisdiction of a state court on the other side of the country if the buyer was dissatisfied.” Thus, the Appellate Division has made clear that New Jersey courts will continue to use the common law test of “purposeful availment” when deciding jurisdiction in cases arising from Internet transactions.