Monday, February 24, 2020
Court of Appeal:
Sending Electronic Messages to Californians Intended to Affect Relationship Between Two Residents Of the State Was Sufficient Connection for Long-Arm Statute to Apply, Opinion Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a man who has never set foot in the state but allegedly sent electronic messages here aimed at blocking a personal relationship from developing between a distant cousin of his and a man she met, by prearrangement of relatives, at an after-church lunch, Div. One of the Fourth District Court of Appeal held.
That conduct “created a substantial connection” between the defendant and this state “sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him,” the opinion, filed Thursday, declares.
Prior to the scheduled introduction on June 10, 2018, a woman identified in the San Diego Superior Court complaint only by her first name, Shantell, contacted her cousin in Michigan, Yousef Zehia, to inquire about the man she was to meet, Nicholas Nadhir, proceeding on the notion that Zehia might know Nadhir.
According to Nadhir’s complaint:
“Beginning June 7, 2018, Plaintiff began receiving requests to follow his personal Instagram account from accounts with names like ‘shantell.does.not.want.this.’ Plaintiff initially ignored these follow requests, denying and deleting them, as he believed them to be spam messages.”
The meeting took place.
On June 11, it is alleged, he received a direct message to his Instagram account reading:
“Shantell is finding this whole thing very stressful and as an invasion of privacy, she is not happy and is being pressured by her family.”
It urged an end to the match-making effort, counseling:
“Tell the moms and aunts to just drop the whole thing.”
The effort persisted, with messages then being sent to members of Shantell’s family, supposedly from “Nicholas N.” but not sent by him, falsely attributing to him the view that Shantell’s father “is a buffoon” and stating that he would leave Shantell “right after I’m done with her.”
‘Piece of Meat’
Via Instagram, the allegation was made that Nadhir “put on a good show” when he met Shantell but “sees her as a piece of meat,” going on to suggest asking him about “all the jew girls he’s been with,” and remarking:
“Shantell will be no different to him and he will leave her once he’s done with her.”
Among various other statements via Instagram were that Nadhir “has ruined a lot of Chaldean girls reputations in Michigan, Chicago and some in San Diego.”
Nadhir initially sued “John Doe,” then named Zehia after information provided by Instagram, pursuant to a subpoena, led to the conclusion that the communications originated from him.
The plaintiff alleged defamation, false personation by electronic means, invasion of privacy through appropriation of his name or likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Writ Petition Denied
Zehia appeared specially to contest jurisdiction. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil declined to quash service of the summons, and the defendant sought a writ of mandate.
Presiding Justice Judith McConnell wrote the opinion denying the writ.
“By sending California-focused messages and conversations directly to California residents for the alleged purpose of interfering with the relationship of California residents and causing reputational injury in California,” she said, his “suit-related conduct established a substantial connection with California.”
McConnell pointed to two United States Supreme Court cases.
Shirley Jones’s Action
In the 1984 Calder v. Jones, the nation’s high court said California had jurisdiction over an action brought by actress Shirley Jones, who worked and resided here, against a reporter and editor, who are based in Florida, in connection with an allegedly libelous article in the National Enquirer.
Then Chief Justice William Rehnquist declared in Calder:
“Petitioner South wrote and petitioner Calder edited an article that they knew would have a potentially devastating impact upon respondent. And they knew that the brunt of that injury would be felt by respondent in the State in which she lives and works and in which the National Enquirer has its largest circulation. Under the circumstances, petitioners must ‘reasonably anticipate being haled into court there’ to answer for the truth of the statements made in their article….An individual injured in California need not go to Florida to seek redress from persons who, though remaining in Florida, knowingly cause the injury in California.”
McConnell also cited the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Walden v. Fiore., a case in which a lack of jurisdiction was found on the part of a Nevada court over a Georgia defendant. There, Justice Clarence Thomas recited:
“[W]e have upheld the assertion of jurisdiction over defendants who have purposefully ‘reach[ed] out beyond’ their State and into another.”
Applying Walden, McConnell said that “Zehia has purposefully ‘reach[ed] out beyond’ [his s]tate and into’ California.”
Under Calder, she reasoned, Zehia must “reasonably anticipate being haled into court” in California to answer for the harm he has caused in this forum.
The case is Zehia v. Superior Court (Nadhir), 2020 S.O.S. 753.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company