Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Connecticut man’s relationship with a California woman which led to the conception, in Nebraska, of a child born in this state was not substantial enough contact with California to establish personal jurisdiction over the father, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said yesterday.
The opinion by Justice William Dato of Div. One grants a petition for a writ of mandate brought by the man after his motion to quash the service of summons in a paternity case was denied.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Fred L. Birchak found that his court had personal jurisdiction over the man under Family Code §5700.201(a)(8), a catchall which provides for such jurisdiction in paternity suits against non-California residents when “there is any other basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.”
Trial Court Ruling
Birchak noted that the father (identified by Dato as David L. “to protect the privacy interests of the child”) had made several trips to California for business over the years during several of which he had been intimate with the mother, Mariana C.; one such trip had resulted in a pregnancy which ended in miscarriage in 2003.
(Both parties to the case were married to other people for much of their relationship. The woman’s discovery in 2009 that her lover had a wife and a nine-year-old daughter caused a temporary break in their relationship, though they reestablished their romance in 2013 after he told her he was divorced and her marriage had deteriorated.)
“The Court finds that it has personal jurisdiction over [David] in that there was a period of time where sexual intercourse was occurring in the state of California resulting in a conception even though the child was not carried to term, and this is sufficiently related and tied to the issue here that California does, and [David] does, have sufficient continuing contacts or sufficient contacts with the state of California that are relevant to the litigation at issue for this Court to exercise jurisdiction over him”
Business Travel Unpersuasive
Dato rejected the mother’s contention that the man’s infrequent trips to California for business established general jurisdiction over him.
“David’s contacts were not so continuous and systematic as to render him ‘essentially at home’ in California,” he said.
Nor did he agree with her argument that specific jurisdiction was proper because “David knew that Mariana is a resident of California and if she were to conceive a child, she will raise the child in California.”
He acknowledged that “David expressly aimed his conduct at a California resident rather than simply knowing the effects of his conduct might be felt here,” but pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 opinion in Walden v. Fiore which, he said, requires a different analysis.
In Walden, Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the high court’s unanimous opinion holding that a Nevada court lacked personal jurisdiction over a Georgia police officer who had allegedly taken money from a group of Nevadans as they passed through his state.
Thomas noted that the officer had conducted all of his allegedly tortious activity in Georgia. He wrote:
“Petitioner never traveled to, conducted activities within, contacted anyone in, or sent anything or anyone to Nevada. In short, when viewed through the proper lens—whether the defendant’s actions connect him to the forum—petitioner formed no jurisdictionally relevant contacts with Nevada.”
“Petitioner’s actions in Georgia did not create sufficient contacts with Nevada simply because he allegedly directed his conduct at plaintiffs whom he knew had Nevada connections. Such reasoning improperly attributes a plaintiff’s forum connections to the defendant and makes those connections ‘decisive’ in the jurisdictional analysis….It also obscures the reality that none of petitioner’s challenged conduct had anything to do with Nevada itself.”
Dato said that, after Walden, California’s test mirrors that of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which looks at a defendant’s contacts with the forum rather than his targeting of a plaintiff connected to the state.
“In this case, the only ‘suit-related conduct’ tying David to California is his on-and-off relationship with Mariana, a California resident. His business trips to California as a concert promoter or personal visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library are too disconnected to the paternity action standing alone to be jurisdictionally relevant….
“Nor do we find David’s past contacts with Mariana in California jurisdictionally relevant. Mariana’s declared that she and David had sexual relations between 2001 and 2009 in ‘various hotels in California as well as other states.’ Contrary to the trial court’s finding, there is no nonspeculative evidence to suggest her 2003 pregnancy resulted from ‘interactions in the state of California.’ ”
Defendant’s Knowledge Insufficient
Dato acknowledged that the man knew his paramour was a Californian and that any child they conceived would affect California.
“Simply directing conduct at a plaintiff knowing that she has significant California connections does not satisfy the minimum contacts inquiry,” he said.
It was undisputed that their child had been conceived in Nebraska.
“We caution,” he added, “that jurisdiction remains a fact-specific rather than ‘mechanical’ inquiry, turning on the ‘quality and nature’ of a defendant’s activities….On the record before us, Mariana did not meet her initial burden to establish that David had the requisite minimum contacts to justify haling him before a California court.”
The case is David L. v. Superior Court (Mariana C.), 2018 S.O.S. 5501.
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