To sue a Vermont ski area, there must be more than a web presence to sue in New York.Posted: January 19, 2015
Plaintiff injured at Killington ski area tried to sue Killington in New York court because Killington had a website that the New York plaintiff could access online. New York’s long arm statute requires more than a website to bring a foreign defendant to a New York court.
State: New York, Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department
Plaintiff: Claudia Mejia-Haffner and her husband, Steven R. Haffner
Defendant: Killington, Ltd.
Defendant Defenses: The court had no personal jurisdiction over it.
Holding: For the defendant
The plaintiff was a resident of New York. The defendant is a ski area in Vermont. The plaintiff signed up for a ski race camp at the defendant’s ski area online through a third party American Ski Racing Association. The ski race camp was taught at Killington by Killington employees.
During the camp the plaintiff was instructed to try turning with her boots unbuckled. She did, falling and injuring herself. She and her husband sued Killington in a New York court. The trial court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant Killington.
The plaintiff’s appealed.
Analysis: making sense of the law based upon these facts.
The court first reviewed the requirements of the New York Long Arm Statute and what is required to bring a foreign, non-New York, defendant into a New York courtroom.
A foreign corporation is amenable to suit in New York courts under CPLR 301 if it has engaged in such a continuous and systematic course of doing business’ here that a finding of its presence’ in this jurisdiction is warranted” Mere solicitation of business within New York will not subject a defendant to New York’s jurisdiction Instead, a plaintiff asserting jurisdiction under CPLR 301 must satisfy the standard of “solicitation plus,” which requires a showing of ” activities of substance in addition to solicitation'” (
A long-arm statute is the law that outlines under that state’s law the amount of presence a foreign defendant must have and how a foreign defendant can be brought into the state and sued.
Advertising alone is not enough to establish jurisdiction in New York. The foreign defendant must engage in substantial activity within the state.
…the section of New York’s long-arm statute at issue in this case, grants New York courts jurisdiction over nondomiciliaries when the action arises out of the nondomiciliaries’ “transact[ion of] any business within the state or contract  . . . to supply goods or services in the state”
For substantial activity to occur, the acts within the state must be purposeful.
Purposeful activities are those with which a defendant, through volitional acts, avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws
Obviously purposeful will have a different definition and result for a manufacturer than for an outfitter. That means a manufacturer knows its products will be in the state, versus an outfitter who will be guiding its guests someplace out of state. Knowing your product will be sold inside the state increases the amount of activity according to the courts.
Based on the allegations in the complaint and the statements in the injured plaintiff’s affidavit, there is no substantial relationship between Killington’s maintenance of a website through which a person in New York could purchase services and the alleged tort that occurred. Such allegations are “too remote from [Killington’s] alleged sales and promotional activities to support long-arm jurisdiction under CPLR 302(a)(1)”
The court affirmed the trial court decision and dismissed Killington from the case.
So Now What?
Jurisdiction, whether a court has the ability to bring a defendant in front of it so that its orders are binding on the defendant varies by state. Therefore, you need to understand what states you may be brought into court in and how. In New York, this decision indicates it is not as easy as in other states.
If the plaintiff’s wants to sue Killington, they will have to go and sue in Vermont. That places a substantial burden on the plaintiff to find an attorney in Vermont and to finance litigation in Vermont. Jurisdiction can be a very effective defense against a lawsuit.
Here Killington did not do enough to be brought into a New York court.
What was not brought into the case was whether the plaintiff’s had signed a release? However, Vermont has been anti release with the ski industry so a release may have limited value. Maybe only of value for use in an out of the state court.
Other Articles on Jurisdiction
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