Thursday, February 20, 2020

Zehia v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 20, 2020)

This is a great law school hypothetical about the "effects test" and personal jurisdiction. You couldn't make up a better exam question.  The answer, by the way, is:  "Yes, there is personal jurisdiction here since the defendant is deliberately 'targeting' a California resident."

The only thing that makes it a pain is the facts, which are somewhat unclear on first reading.  What I was able to eventually distill is that there's a guy in San Diego (Nicholas Nadhir) who's being set up with a girl in the same city ("S.M.") by the family of each.  My sense is that the people at issue are maybe Chaldean, of which there's a fairly substantial community down here.  S.M.'s a little nervous about the introduction, and there's a guy in Michigan (Yousef Zehia) who seems like he's not too hot about Nadhir.  So there are then some communications between Zahia and S.M. in which the former basically says bad things about Nadhir.

None of which would alone support personal jurisdiction in California, I suspect.

But there are also some anonymous social media contacts with Nadhir (in California) in which the participant seems like he's trying to persuade Nadhir to drop contact with S.M.  As well as allegedly fake social media messages, purportedly from Nadhir, which Zahia shows to S.M. as "proof" that Nadhir's a bad guy.  Nadhir ends up suing, saying that Zahia is behind all this allegedly fake stuff and is trying to sabotage his reputation and potential relationship with S.M.  And there's discovery and the like to try to figure out who really was the perpetrator of these anonymous things, with some evidence suggesting that, yeah, it's Zahia (in Michigan).

So the Court of Appeal says that's enough to create personal jurisdiction.

You'd think that all this wouldn't be big enough to justify a lawsuit.  Or a defense.  The legal fees for all this have got to far exceed anything that's at all reasonably at stake.

But both sides nonetheless have lawyers.  Moreover, it's not just a lawsuit below; today's appeal is the result of a writ petition, which the defendant files and the Court of Appeal considers on the merits (only to eventually deny).  So that's very much a nontrivial expense.

All for badmouthing a guy to a girl being set up on a date by her family.

You'd think there would be a way to resolve all this short of expansive (and expensive) litigation.

Guess not.