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Luberski, Inc. v. Oleficio F.LLI Amato S.R.L.

February 23, 2009

LUBERSKI, INC., PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
OLEFICIO F.LLI AMATO S.R.L., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



Appeal from an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, Daniel J. Didier, Judge. Reversed. (Super. Ct. No. 30-2008-102562).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ikola, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff Luberski, Inc. (Luberski), appeals an order granting defendant Oleificio F.LLI Amato S.R.L.'s (Amato) motion to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction.*fn1 (See Code Civ. Proc. § 418.10, subd. (a)(1).)*fn2 As an Italian olive oil company with limited sales to California customers, Amato averred its contacts with California were insufficient to justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction as a matter of constitutional due process. (See § 410.10.)

We reverse. The court has specific jurisdiction over Amato with regard to this matter because the subject of the dispute is Amato's alleged nondelivery of $406,000 worth of olive oil to Luberski in California.

FACTS

On February 11, 2008, Luberski, an entity operating in California, filed a complaint for breach of written contract, monies had and received, and fraud against Amato, an entity operating in Italy. The complaint alleged the parties agreed via purchase order and written confirmation that Luberski would pay Amato $406,000 for 12,000 cases of olive oil. The contract allegedly obligated Amato to ship the olive oil to Luberski by way of Long Beach, California, with duties and taxes paid by Amato. The complaint alleged Luberski paid $406,000 to Amato, but the promised shipment of olive oil never arrived and Amato did not respond to subsequent written communications inquiring about the promised shipment. The exhibits to the complaint indicate the parties expected a second shipment of olive oil to occur at the same price following satisfactory completion of the first shipment, but the complaint does not allege this second shipment was part of the contract sued upon because payment was only made in the amount of $406,000 (and not $812,000).

Amato specially appeared to contest personal jurisdiction. In support of Amato's motion to quash the summons and complaint, its president attested to the following facts: Amato is a corporation formed under the laws of Italy and located at Partanna, Italy; Amato is in the business of producing olive oil and related products which it sells on a wholesale and retail basis in Italy and to a lesser extent internationally; Amato has sold "some" olive oil to California customers over the years, mainly to two buyers (not including Luberski); Amato provides no services in California; Amato's California sales consist of accepting purchase orders, preparing an invoice, and shipping the products to the closest harbor (either Long Beach or Oakland); Amato has no employees, assets, bank accounts, or offices in California; Amato is a "small company" for which defense of a California action would impose a material burden; Amato "shipped the requested oil over eighteen months ago"; and this order was the first for Luberski, which was introduced to Amato by an existing California buyer. Luberski countered by submitting a declaration which verified the facts alleged in the complaint.

The court found the record supported, for the purposes of the jurisdictional ruling, that Amato "was to deliver $400,000 plus worth of olive oil to the port of Long Beach addressed to the plaintiff, which is a California corporation, and was responsible for the cost of shipping, insurance, and freight." Nevertheless, the court granted the motion to quash service of the summons, ruling neither general nor specific jurisdiction was established. The minute order stated: "General jurisdiction does not exist because defendant's contacts with California are not substantial, continuous, and systematic.

Specific jurisdiction does not exist. There is no evidence defendant purposefully and voluntarily directs activities toward California in order to obtain benefit from the state."

DISCUSSION

"California's long-arm statute authorizes California courts to exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of California. [Citation.] A state court's assertion of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who has not been served with process within the state comports with the requirements of the due process clause of the federal Constitution 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."'" (Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 434, 444 (Vons).) "When a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff has the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the factual basis for the exercise of jurisdiction." (Shisler v. Sanfer Sports Cars, Inc. (2006) 146 Cal.App.4th 1254, 1259 (Shisler).) If the "jurisdictional facts are undisputed, the question of jurisdiction is a purely legal question and, therefore, is subject to a de novo review." (Ibid.)

"Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. A nonresident defendant may be subject to the general jurisdiction of the forum if his or her contacts in the forum state are 'substantial . . . continuous and systematic.' [Citations.] In such a case, 'it is not necessary that the specific cause of action alleged be connected with the defendant's business relationship to the forum.' [Citations.] Such a defendant's contacts with the forum are so wide-ranging that they take the place of physical presence in the forum as a basis for jurisdiction. . . . [¶] If the nonresident defendant does not have substantial and systematic contacts in the forum sufficient to establish general jurisdiction, he or she still may be subject to the specific jurisdiction of the forum . . . ."

(Vons, supra, 14 Cal.4th at pp. 445-446.) "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"' [citations]; and (3) '"the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with 'fair ...


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