Personal Jurisdiction

Davis v. Simon (Ind. Ct. App. Feb. 29, 2012)

- Originally published February 29, 2012

This case involves the oft-litigated issue of personal jurisdiction. The Plaintiff, an Indiana resident, alleged the Defendant, an attorney in California, made defamatory statements regarding the Plaintiff to an Indianapolis newspaper via telephone. The issue is whether the Defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with Indiana to find personal jurisdiction. Specifically, the issue involved whether the “express aiming test”, otherwise known as the “effects test,” which applies to intentional torts, gave an Indiana court jurisdiction over the Defendant. The Defendant’s contacts with Indiana consisted of the news station calling the Defendant with questions regarding the Plaintiff and the possible inference that the Defendant returned one such phone call. The Court found Indiana lacked personal jurisdiction, relying heavily on the fact that it was the Indiana news station that initiated contact with the Defendant, and the Defendant did nothing more than respond to the communications initiated by the Indiana news station. 

The Court also noted that the Defendant neither wrote nor disseminated the story ultimately published about the Plaintiff. Judge Kirsch dissented, believing that by intentionally communicating the allegedly defamatory statements regarding the Plaintiff to an Indianapolis news station reporter, the Plaintiff engaged in intentional conduct in Indiana that was calculated to cause injury in Indiana.

Indiana’s long-arm jurisdiction statute is essentially as broad as the U.S. Constitution law allows. This case turned on the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding regarding personal jurisdiction in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). Few Indiana state decisions have applied Calder and Davis v. Simon appears to be only the second to examine Calder in depth. The fact that the Panel was split over Calder’s application suggests that some clarification from the Indiana Supreme Court may be appropriate in this case. The issue is important and could easily occur again, especially in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other internet postings, where many people make statements from one state regarding people in another state.

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