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Airlines Reporting Corp. v. Renda

August 27, 2009

AIRLINES REPORTING CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
MARIO RENDA, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Rafael A. Arreola, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. GIC865200).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In this case we hold that Code of Civil Procedure section 1710.40 is the proper means to challenge registration of a sister-state judgment on jurisdictional grounds, its 30-day limitations period is inapplicable to challenges based on lack of fundamental jurisdiction, and the trial court did not err in ruling that the sister-state default judgment against Mario Renda was void.

Airlines Reporting Corporation (Airlines Reporting) obtained a $2.6 million default judgment against Renda in Virginia and registered it in California pursuant to the Sister State Money-Judgments Act. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1710.10 et seq.; undesignated statutory references are to the Code of Civil Procedure.) Renda successfully challenged registration of the sister-state judgment on grounds the Virginia state court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. Airlines Reporting appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that: (1) the 30-day limitations period imposed by section 1710.40, subdivision (b) was inapplicable to Renda's motion to vacate the Virginia judgment and (2) Renda did not waive his jurisdictional defense by filing a notice of appearance and responding to post-judgment discovery. Airlines Reporting does not challenge the trial court's finding that the Virginia default judgment against Renda was void for want of personal jurisdiction. We conclude that lack of fundamental jurisdiction is dispositive and affirm the order.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In reviewing and summarizing the facts of this case, we grant Renda's unopposed request for judicial notice of selected court records in Airlines Reporting Corp. v. Uniglobe Fairway Travel, Inc., United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Civil Action No. 1:04cv622 (Uniglobe), Airlines Reporting Corp. v. Commercial Travel Corp., United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Civil Action No. 1:04cv613, and Airlines Reporting Corp. v. Commercial Travel Corp., United States District Court, Southern District of California, Case No. 08mc88-IEG (collectively Commercial Travel). (Evid. Code, § 459.) Most of these court records were already before the trial court.

Airlines Reporting is a federally controlled entity which serves as a national clearinghouse for the issuance of airline tickets for travel agents' customers. In July 2004, Airlines Reporting filed Uniglobe and Commercial Travel, separate actions for breach of its agent reporting agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, fraud, statutory conspiracy, common law conspiracy, and unjust enrichment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against corporate travel agencies and individual defendants, including Renda. A year later, Airlines Reporting filed Airlines Reporting Corp. v. McCord Consumer Direct, Inc. (McCord), the case now before us, in Virginia state court. The complaint alleged breach of the agent reporting agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, fraud, and statutory conspiracy and sought damages against Renda in the sum of $2,505,987.88. The gist of these complaints was that defendants used various unlawful means to defraud Airlines Reporting of its share of the proceeds of airline ticket sales.

A. Uniglobe

When Airlines Reporting moved for entry of default judgment in Uniglobe, the federal court questioned the factual and legal basis for in personam jurisdiction over Renda. The federal magistrate's report concluded that the United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, lacked personal jurisdiction over Renda "based on [his] insufficient contacts with this forum." The federal court dismissed the Uniglobe action against Renda without prejudice on March 21, 2005.

B. Commercial Travel

Commercial Travel followed a different tack. Airlines Reporting moved for entry of default judgment against Renda in September 2004, but the federal court delayed entry of that judgment until September 2007. There is no mention of the Uniglobe ruling in the Commercial Travel record before us.

In February 2008, Airlines registered the Commercial Travel default judgment against Renda in the United States District Court, Southern District of California, and moved for assignment of Renda's interests in two actions in the San Diego County Superior Court. Renda responded by filing a motion to vacate the underlying default judgment. Based on the United States District Court decision in Uniglobe, the court found that the Eastern District of Virginia lacked personal jurisdiction over Renda at the time the district court entered default judgment in Commercial Travel. Since that judgment was void, the court granted Renda's motion to vacate on August 1, 2008.

C. McCord

McCord, also known as "A Better Airfare," was licensed to sell and issue airline tickets in Virginia through Airlines Reporting. McCord is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Virginia. In June 2005, Airlines Reporting filed a complaint against McCord and others, including Renda, in the circuit court for Arlington County, Virginia. The complaint alleged that Renda operated A Better Airfare as an officer and part owner of that company, and was involved in preparing weekly sales reports to Airlines Reporting, allegations Renda denied in subsequent California proceedings. The allegations against Renda were nearly identical to the allegations ...


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