Thursday, July 1, 2004
Supreme Court to Decide Jurisdiction Over Nevada Casinos
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court unanimously agreed yesterday to review a March decision by this district’s Court of Appeal holding that Nevada casinos can be sued here for unfair competition and false advertising.
Justice Patti S. Kitching of Div. Three, writing for the appellate panel, had acknowledged its decision was in conflict with Circus Circus Hotels, Inc. v. Superior Court (1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 546. The Circus Circus court found a hotel’s advertising activities directed at California residents were insufficient to support jurisdiction.
Kitching said the “narrow” interpretation of the constitutional requirement that a defendant must have purposefully availed itself of contacts with the forum state to permit jurisdiction adopted in the 1981 decision was “unwarranted.”
“In deciding the question of personal jurisdiction,” she explained, “courts should carefully consider the facts in each case in light of these guidelines and focus on the ultimate question whether the exercise of jurisdiction would be fair and reasonable.”
The allegations of Frank Snowney’s purported class action were directly related to the advertising activities of five Nevada hotel operators, including Harrah’s Las Vegas, Inc., and Harrah’s Laughlin, Inc., Kitching said. She noted that the hotels’ advertising activities included billboards in California and advertisements in the Los Angeles Times.
Among other things, Snowney alleged that the hotels imposed a nightly energy surcharge on guests that violated California law, in part because the guests were not notified it would be assessed.
“[W]e conclude, in light of the nature and intensity of the contacts, that the contacts are sufficiently related to the alleged causes of action to justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction,” Kitching declared.
The defendants, she said, “made no effort” to demonstrate that the exercise of jurisdiction over them would be unreasonable.
“Based on this record,” she said, “we discern no extenuating circumstances indicating that it would be unreasonable to require the Hotel Defendants to defend this action in California.”
The hotel companies’ motion to quash service had been granted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman.
The case is Snowney v. Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., S124286.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company