New York State Court of Appeals
SPCA of Upstate New York Inc., et al v. American Working Collie Association et al.
Background: The dispute arose after a number of dogs were rescued by the plaintiff wherein the defendant offered to assist in the care of the rescued animals. The defendant, based in Vermont, sent a check to the plaintiff and had phone conversations with the plaintiff concerning the care of the animals. After a representative of the defendant visited the plaintiff’s facilities, she wrote up a number of writings posted on the defendant’s website addressing the condition of the dogs and the treatment provided by the plaintiff. The plaintiff then commenced a defamation action. The defendants answered the affirmative defense of lack of personal jurisdiction. The defendants’ motion was denied on the ground that the defendant had personally availed herself of the protections and benefits through her trips to New York. The Appellate Division reversed.
Ruling: The Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs did not establish personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendants. The court found that the defendants’ activities were quite limited as there were three phone calls and two short visits to New York. Moreover, the donation of money and dog leashes did not constitute purposeful activities related to the cause of action that would justify bringing the defendants before a New York court. Finally, the statements made were not directed toward New York and were equally accessible by any other jurisdiction.
Martin J. McGuinness for the appellants; Jonathan M. Bernstein for the respondents