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Kentucky Supreme Court Affirms Court of Appeals Decision in Case of First Impression Involving Personal Jurisdiction

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Press Release
March 28, 2011

CLEVELAND, OH – The Kentucky Supreme Court last week upheld a ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that a non-resident’s single online transaction does not confer personal jurisdiction in the Commonwealth. The case of Hinners v. Robey involved whether a non-resident’s sale of an automobile through online auction provider eBay Motors provided sufficient minimum contacts to justify personal jurisdiction in Kentucky under the state’s Long-Arm Statute and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.

Missouri resident Brad Robey was accused of selling a defective automobile to a Kentucky consumer through eBay. Robey sold the automobile ‘as is,’ with a 30 day / 1000 mile service warranty. Reminger Co., LPA attorney David M. Andrew initially represented the defendant Robey in Kenton Circuit Court after the court denied the motion to dismiss and entered a default judgment against his client. Andrew took the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, who reversed the trial court’s decision and held that Robey lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Kentucky to establish personal jurisdiction in Kentucky.  Mr. Hinners appealed to the Supreme Court of Kentucky seeking to reinstate the trial court’s finding of jurisdiction.

Reminger attorneys Danielle Ravencraft and John M. Dunn carefully analyzed the scope of the issue across the United States in preparation for their oral argument last November. On appeal before the Kentucky Supreme Court, Dunn argued at length regarding Robey’s insufficient minimum contacts with the Commonwealth and as such, that Kentucky courts lacked personal jurisdiction over him.

“This is a victory for single transaction users of online auctions, both Kentucky residents and non-residents alike.  Individuals using online websites for isolated sales can have predictability that they will not be haled into courts across the country based upon where the ultimate buyer may live.  This decision upholds well established rules of law in the market place and moves the application of those laws to the current internet age,” said Dunn.

In their unanimous decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed that while the Kentucky Long Arm Statute would confer personal jurisdiction, constitutional due process would not. As such, the Kentucky Supreme Court, in this case of first impression, rejected the notion that a single eBay transaction, even one involving the sale of a motor vehicle with a limited warranty, would not confer jurisdiction. 

The Court noted that while this issue of a single internet contact was the first of its kind to be reviewed in the state, traditional due process principles relating to the formation of a single contract touching upon the forum state does not confer jurisdiction.  The well settled case law in Kentucky that a single contract touching upon the forum state will not, standing alone, subject the defendant to jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court of Kentucky also noted that a defendant may not be haled into the court of a foreign jurisdiction solely as a result of random, fortuitous, or attenuated contacts.

About Reminger, Attorneys at Law:

Reminger Co., L.P.A. is a full-service law firm with ten offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Youngstown, Sandusky, Toledo, Fort Mitchell, Lexington and Louisville. With more than 125 attorneys collectively, Reminger's practice areas include all aspects of litigation, along with corporate, tax, real estate and probate matters. Our fundamental objective in all the legal services we provide is to obtain the best possible results for our clients in the most practical and efficient manner possible. For more information, visit Reminger at www.reminger.com.