The Planning Group of Scottsdale v. Lake Mathews Mineral Properties (CA1 5/6/10)



A personal-jurisdiction opinion, long (33 pages) but not of earth-shattering importance.

TPG is an investment outfit that sells insurance on the side, or vice versa. One of its insurance clients found out about its investment activities and sent it, with his brother’s permission, a report about the brother’s California mining property. TPG ended up investing in the mine. There was a falling-out and TPG sued.

The problem was that the brother and other defendants were California residents. They moved to dismiss, arguing that they did not have minimum contacts with Arizona. The trial court granted the motion; the Court of Appeals affirmed.

If you’ve read other personal-jurisdiction cases, you’ve pretty much read this one. Who sent what where, who called whom, World-Wide Volkswagen and Burger King and G.T. Helicopters and Uberti, the whole nine yards. This is one of those cases that will be cited because it is a shiny, new source for the same, old stuff.

The court apparently feels that its contribution is to discuss the distinction between purposefully availing oneself of the privileges of the forum and purposefully directing one’s activities toward it. The difference, the opinion tells us, is that the former applies to contracts while the latter applies to torts and is subdivided into a three-part test involving (1) intentional acts (2) aimed at the forum, which (3) caused harm the defendants should have known could happen there.

The court says that the distinction is “a major crux” of the appeal. (Usage notes: “Major crux” is painfully redundant. And there is only one crux.) That might be right if jurisdiction were proper under one analysis but not the other. All the court really means is that TPG argued the case in those terms.

Personal jurisdiction cases tend to get this sort of over-analyzed, death-by-a-thousand-citations treatment. Judging by the facts in the opinion, it wasn’t actually a very hard case. But this is one to throw into your bag of cites for when you next have the issue.