In litigation, the question of “personal jurisdiction” – i.e., whether the court has jurisdiction (power) over the person of the defendant – is arguably the most critical/important: If the court does not have jurisdiction, plaintiff loses without regard to the merits of the case.
Stern v. Four Points by Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel, 2015 NY Slip Op 08501 (App. Div. 1st Dept. Nov. 19, 2015) illustrates this point. Plaintiff alleged that she was injured at a Sheraton Inn hotel in Michigan, which was owned by defendant ZLC Inc. She brought the suit in New York, claiming that New York courts had jurisdiction because she made an online reservation while in New York.
“ZLC, a Michigan corporation, submitted evidence that, at the time of the accident, it used the trademark name ‘Sheraton’ pursuant to a license agreement, but had no other hotels and no bank accounts, real estate or other contacts with New York.”
Under these circumstances, held the court, plaintiff’s case must be dismissed:
Although ZLC’s participation in the interactive website for Sheraton hotels may demonstrate that it transacted business in New York, the relationship between ZLC’s website activities and plaintiff’s negligence action arising from an allegedly defective condition of premises in Michigan is too remote to support the exercise of long-arm or specific jurisdiction under CPLR 302(a)(1). Long-arm jurisdiction also cannot be asserted under CPLR 302(a)(3), which applies when a tortious act committed outside the state causes injury within the state, because plaintiff’s injury occurred in Michigan.
The court concluded that “[s]ince plaintiff has not shown that facts may exist to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction over ZLC with respect to her claim arising from a trip-and-fall accident in Michigan, ZLC’s motion to dismiss was properly granted without providing plaintiff an opportunity to engage in jurisdictional discovery.”