APPEAL COURT DENIES WRIT IN DEFAMATION QUASHING OF SUMMONS CASE!
APPEAL COURT DENIES WRIT IN DEFAMATION QUASHING OF SUMMONS CASE!
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APPEAL COURT DENIES WRIT IN DEFAMATION QUASHING OF SUMMONS CASE!

| Feb 21, 2020 | Firm News

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In this writ proceeding, the California Court of Appeal addresses whether California may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who sent allegedly defamatory statements to California residents through private online social media messages with the aim of interfering with the residents’ personal relationships. Resident Nicholas Nadhir sued nonresident defendant, Yousef Zehia, for defamation, violation of the online impersonation law (Pen. Code, § 528.5), appropriation of name or likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the conduct just described. Zehia moved to quash service of summons and the trial court denied the motion to quash on grounds that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Zehia was proper.

“California courts may exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident on any basis consistent with the federal or state Constitution. (Code Civ. Proc., § 410.10.) To comport with federal and state due process, California may only exercise jurisdiction when a defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state to satisfy ‘ “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” ‘ [Citations.] Under the minimum contacts test, we examine the quality and nature of a defendant’s action to determine whether requiring him to submit to jurisdiction in California is reasonable and fair.” (Strasner v. Touchstone Wireless Repair & Logistics, LP (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 215, 221 (Strasner).) 10 “Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific.” (Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 434, 445.)

Here, the California Court of Appeal was concerned only with the issue of whether specific jurisdiction exists.

“When determining whether specific jurisdiction exists, courts consider the ‘ “relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.” ‘ [Citation.] A court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if: (1) ‘the defendant has purposefully availed himself or herself of forum benefits’ [citation]; (2) ‘the “controversy is related to or ‘arises out of’ [the] defendant’s contacts with the forum” ‘ [citation]; and (3) ‘ “the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with ‘fair play and substantial justice.’ ” ‘ ” (Pavlovich v. Superior Court (2002) 29 Cal.4th 262, 269 (Pavlovich).) ” ‘ “When a defendant moves to quash service of process” [on jurisdictional grounds], “the plaintiff has the initial burden of demonstrating facts justifying the exercise of jurisdiction.” ‘ ” (Jayone Foods, Inc. v. Aekyung Industrial Co. Ltd. (2019) 31 Cal.App.5th 543, 553 (Jayone Foods).)

“The plaintiff must do more than merely allege jurisdictional facts. It must present evidence sufficient to justify a finding that California may properly exercise jurisdiction over the defendant.” (In re Automobile Antitrust Cases I & II (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 100, 110.) ” ‘ “If the plaintiff meets this initial burden, then the defendant has the burden of demonstrating ‘that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable.’ ” ‘ ” (Jayone Foods, at p. 553.) ” ‘When there is conflicting evidence, the trial court’s factual determinations are not disturbed on appeal if supported by substantial evidence.’ ” (Jayone Foods, supra, 31 Cal.App.5th at p. 553.) “The ultimate question whether jurisdiction is fair and reasonable under all of the circumstances, based on the facts which are undisputed and those resolved by the court in favor of the prevailing party, is a legal determination warranting our independent review.” (Integral Development Corp. v. Weissenbach (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 576, 585.)

The California Court of Appeal concluded Zehia’s suit-related conduct created a substantial connection between Zehia and California sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him.

Therefore, the trial court correctly denied the motion to quash. Zehia’s writ petition is denied.

See Nadhir v Zehia.

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Robert Rodriguez has litigated well over 100 family law cases and civil litigation matters including personal injury motor vehicle cases, dog bite and slip & fall cases, breach of contract, defamation & invasion of privacy, fraud, unfair business practice, malicious prosecution, workplace and employment matters including sexual harassment, wrongful termination, wage & hour violations, discrimination pursuant to the FEHA, Gov’t Code §§ 12940 et seq., violations of the FMLA & Pregnancy Leave, Civil Rights  discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the State of California and California federal district courts.

* Disclaimer – Robert Rodriguez is licensed to practice only in the State of California & this analysis is applied only under State of California law.  Robert Rodriguez is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Courts, Central, Northern & Eastern Districts of California.

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