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California courts may exercise personal jurisdiction on any basis consistent with the Constitution of California and the United States. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 410.10. The exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with these Constitutions if the defendant has such minimum contacts with the state that the assertion of jurisdiction does not violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
Plaintiff Frank Snowney, a California resident, filed a class action against defendants Harrah’s Las Vegas, Inc., Harrah’s Laughlin, Inc., Harrah’s Operating Company, Inc. (HOC), Rio Properties, Inc., and Harveys Tahoe Management Company, Inc. (collectively defendants), a group of Nevada hotels. Plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to provide notice of an energy surcharge imposed on hotel guests. Defendants advertised heavily in California and obtained a significant percentage of their business from California residents. Defendants also maintained an Internet Web site and toll-free phone number where visitors or callers could obtain room quotes and make reservations. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to quash the summons for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal, Second Dist., Div. Three, No. B164118, reversed, concluding that the defendants had sufficient contacts with California to justify the exercise of specific jurisdiction.
Were the defendants subject to specific jurisdiction in California?
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal. The Court held that the defendants were subject to specific jurisdiction in California. The defendants purposefully availed themselves of the privilege of doing business in California. The plaintiff’s causes of action were premised on alleged omissions during the defendants’ consummation of transactions with California residents and in their California advertisements. Because the harm alleged by the plaintiff related directly to the content of the defendants’ promotional activities in California, an inherent relationship between the plaintiff’s claims and the defendants’ contacts with California existed. By purposefully and successfully soliciting the business of California residents, the defendants could reasonably anticipate being subject to litigation in California in the event their solicitations caused an injury to a California resident. The assertion of specific jurisdiction over the defendants was fair.