CORNELISON v. CHANEY

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 2, California.

Odessa CORNELISON, Pialntiff and Appellant, v. Roy Douglas CHANEY, Defendant and Respondent.

Civ. 43319.

Decided: November 13, 1974

Olney, Levy, Kaplan & Tenner by Jack Tenner, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and appellant. Williams & Black by Donald B. Black, Los Angeles, for defendant and respondent.

Plaintiff appeals from a judgment of dismissal entered after the trial court found it lacked jurisdiction over the defendant.

FACTS:

Odessa Cornelison filed a complaint for personal injuries and wrongful death, alleging that her husband died as a result of the negligent driving of defendant Chaney. The complaint further alleges that plaintiff is a resident of California; the destination of defendant, who was engaged in the business of hauling freight, was California; and the accident occurred approximately 27 miles south of Las Vegas in Clark County, Colorado.1

Defendant's affidavit states he is a resident of Nebraska. The answers to written interrogatories reveal that defendant has a California hauling license, issued by the Public Utilities Commission; that he has made about 20 round trips per year to California in his trucking operation during the past seven years; that he has been an independent contractor for a Fresno, California company; and that at the time of the accident, he was hauling dry milk to the Stay Kist Tuna Company in Long Beach, Californial.

Defendant made a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over defendant (Code Civ.Proc., § 418.10(a)(1)).

The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal because the accident was not in California; the defendant was not a resident or domiciliary of California; and ‘the quality, extent and nature of the contacts of defendant, Roy Douglas Chaney, with the State of California, as it applies to the transaction giving rise to this cause of action, are not sufficient for jurisdiction of this Court to attach herein.’

CONTENTION ON APPEAL:

Plaintiff, appellant herein, contends that the activities of the defendant, as set forth in the record, furnish a sufficient basis for jurisdiction to attach in California.

DISCUSSION:

The activities of defendant do not furnish a sufficient basis for jurisdiction to attach in California.

Section 410.10 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides:

‘A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.’

Jurisdiction may attach when an act done in the state causes harm, or when defendant is a resident or domiciliary of the state or is served within the state. (Conflict of Laws, Restatement 2d, § 27.) None of those conditions is present here. We must therefore decide whether defendant's contacts with California are such either that he is ‘doing business' within the state or has sufficient ‘minimum contacts' so that the state's attachment of jurisdiction would not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’ (Internat. Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95.) (See Arnesen v. Raymond Lee Organization, Inc., 31 Cal.App.3d 991, 996, 107 Cal.Rptr. 774.)

Defendant has conducted business within California. During the seven years preceding the accident, he made approximately 20 round trips a year to California, hauling about $20,000 worth of products on each trip. He was on his way to Long Beach, California when the accident occurred. Defendant also had a California hauling license. He was more involved in the state than a vacationer or other non-business visitor to California.

It can argued that defendant has purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws. (Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 251, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283; Buckeye Boiler Co. v. Superior Court, 71 Cal.2d 893, 898, 80 Cal.Rptr. 113, 458 P.2d 57.) But ‘unless the defendant's forum-related activity reaches such extensive or wide-ranging proportions as to make the defendant sufficiently ‘present’ in the forum state to support jurisdiction over it concerning causes of action which are unrelated to that activity [citations], the particular cause of action must arise out of or be connected with the defendant's forum-related activity. [Citations.]' (Buckeye Boiler Co. v. Superior Court, supra, 71 Cal.2d at p. 889, 80 Cal.Rptr. at p. 118, 458 P.2d at p. 62.) In the instant case, defendant's ‘forum-related activity’ consists of intermittent hauling of freight in a truck to and from California. The cause of action arose when defendant was near to the border of the forum state, about to enter to deliver dry milk to Long Beach, California. The event nonetheless occurred outside of California. The accident did not reasonably arise out of and was not connected with defendant's ‘forum-related’ activity. A cause of action based on such an accident is, by comparison, wholly unlike a cause of action based on a contract made by the parties in the forum state, but the performance of which might be affected by events occurring outside the state. (See e. g. Martin v. Detroit Lions, Inc., 32 Cal.App.2d 472, 108 Cal.Rptr. 23.) In the latter situation that the contract is performed or that it is breached is a fact that arises out of and depends on the very existence of the contract. Jurisdiction cannot be based in the case at bench on any act defined in Buckeye Boiler Co., supra, as ‘[arising] out of or . . . connected with defendant's forum-related activity.’

Examining next the second of the two aspects of defendant's activity, as suggested by Buckeye Boiler Co., supra, we ask: ‘Does defendant Chaney's forum-related activity reach such extesive or wide range proportions to justify assertion of judicial jurisdiction by California?’ Our answer is ‘no.’ It would be stretching the description of defendant truck driver Chaney's activity to say that his deliveries into California created a business by him which was extensive or of wide proportions. His trips were not to create or solicit business, either for himself or others. He entered slightly less than twice a month. There is not much relevance in the fact that his cargo value averaged $20,000. That value was not his. He is a truck driver, not the owner of the merchandise.

‘One basic principle underlies all rules of jurisdiction. This principle is that a state has power to exercise judicial jurisdiction over a person . . . if the person's relationship to the state is such as to make the exercise of such jurisdiction reasonable under contemporary standards. . . .

‘Whether a particular relationship is sufficient is determined by assessing the relevance of the relationship to the cause of action involved. Such relevance is found when the exercise of jurisdiction is in accord with contemporary views of fair play and substantial justice, . . . (See Restatement (Second), § 24, Comment b.)’ (Judicial Council Comment, Code Civ.Proc., § 410.10 (p.462.)

Apart from considerations related to forum non conveniens, it would be basically unfair and unreasonable to hold that defendant had extensive business in California in order to assert and exercise jurisdiction for the benefit of the domiciliary plaintiff and compel defendant, an individual, resident of Nebraska, to answer in and be controlled by California procedure for an accident occurring in Nevada and having nothing to do with defendant's activity in California.

Even if we were to hold that California could exercise jurisdiction in the present case, the state should decline to do so in the present case. Defendant argues forum non conveniens in his brief, citing Fisher Governor Company v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.2d 222, 1 Cal.Rptr. 1, 347 P.2d 1. ‘It is true the Fisher Governor case states that the burden of defending an action in one place rather than another is a factor to be considered in determining whether a state court has acquired jurisdiction over a non-resident. However, the California Supreme Court was concerned there with the jurisdictional issue, and a careful reading of the decision indicates that the burden of trying the action in the court in which the complaint is filed is only one of many factors to be considered on the jurisdictional issue and has importance only in close cases where the non-resident's contacts with the forum state are minimal and the inconvenience which could be caused by the trial of the action there is substantial. If . . . it is clear the state court has jurisdiction, and if the non-resident's real complaint is that the trial of the lawsuit will cause serious inconvenience, the appropriate remedy is a motion to stay proceedings or to dismiss the action under the doctrine of forum non conveniens (Code Civ.Proc., § 410.30); under this doctrine a court may refuse to entertain a lawsuit even though it has jurisdiction over the litigants if it finds the forum of filing to be a seriously inconvenient forum for the trial of the action. (Gulf Oil Corporation v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 67 S.Ct. 839, 91 L.Ed. 1055)’ (Emphasis added.) (Martin v. Detroit Lions, Inc., supra, 32 Cal.App.3d 472, 476, 108 Cal.Rptr. 23, 25.)

Unlike the defendant in Martin v. Detroit Lions, Inc., supra, 32 Cal.App.3d 472, 108 Cal.Rptr. 23, defendant herein did bring section 410.30 of the Code of Civil Procedure to the attention of the trial court judge. Therefore, the trial court, since this is a close case, could consider the convenience of forum in determining jurisdiction. To be sure, the only substantial contact with California is plaintiff's residence here; the accident occurred in Nevada, and the defendant is a resident of Nebraska. In balancing the factors to be considered under Fisher Governor Company v. Superior Court, supra, 53 Cal.2d at pp. 225–226, 1 Cal.Rptr. 1, 347 P.2d 1 (the interest of the state in providing a forum for its residents or in regulating the business involved; the relative availability of evidence and the burden of defense and prosecution in one place rather than another; the ease of access to an alternative forum; the avoidance of multiplicity of suits and conflicting adjudications; and the extent to which the cause of action arose out of defendant's local activities), we agree that these consideration do not support an assumption of jurisdiction in plaintiff's action.

The judgment is affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.  The declarations of plaintiff and defendant both say Nevada. The designation of Colorado in the complaint is an error.

BEACH, Associate Justice.

ROTH, P. J., and FLEMING, J., concur.