MOTION TO QUASH SERVICE OF SUMMONS AND DISMISS

Specially appearing Defendant George Brandt, III’s unopposed motion to quash service of summons and dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, is granted.

Brandt seeks an order quashing service of the summons and dismissing him from this action on the ground that Plaintiff cannot meet his burden to show that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Brandt.  Code of Civil Procedure section 418.10, subdivision (a) provides in relevant part that: “A defendant, on or before the last day of his or her time to plead or within any further time that the court may for good cause allow, may serve and file a notice of motion for one or more of the following purposes:

          (1) To quash service of the summons on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of the court over him or her.

          (2) To stay or dismiss the action on the ground of inconvenient forum. . . .”

“On a challenge to personal jurisdiction by a motion to quash, the plaintiff has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the factual bases justifying the exercise of jurisdiction . . . .  The plaintiff must come forward with affidavits and other competent evidence to carry this burden and cannot simply rely on allegations in an unverified complaint. . . . If the plaintiff meets this burden, ‘it becomes the defendant’s burden to demonstrate that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable.’”  (ViaView, Inc. v. Retzlaff (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 198, 209-210 [internal citations omitted]; see Ziller Electronics Lab GmbH v. Superior Court (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 1222, 1232-1233.)

A nonresident defendant may not be called upon to defend in a foreign forum unless he or she has minimal contacts with that state to exercise power over that party. (Hensa v. Denckla (1958) 357 U.S. 235, 251.)  A nonresident defendant has a liberty interest in not being subject to the judgments of a forum with which he or she has established no meaningful minimum contacts.  (Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 434, 445, citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz (1985) 471 U.S. 462, 471-472.) Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that a nonresident defendant has sufficient contacts with the forum state to support personal jurisdiction.  (Aquila, Inc. v. Superior Court (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 556, 570.)  Plaintiff “must present facts demonstrating that the conduct of defendants related to the pleaded causes is such as to constitute constitutionally cognizable ‘minimum contacts.’”  (Burdick v. Superior Court (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 8, 17.)

Personal jurisdiction may be general or specific.  A nonresident defendant may be subject to general jurisdiction if his or her contacts with the forum are substantial, continuous and systematic.  (Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc., supra, 14 Cal.4th at p. 445, citing Perkins v. Benguet Mining Co. (1952) 342 U.S. 437, 445.)

A nonresident defendant may be subject to specific jurisdiction if three requirements are met: (1) the defendant has purposefully availed itself of forum benefits with respect to the matter in controversy; (2) the controversy is related to or arises out of the defendant’s contacts with the forum; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction would comport with fair play and substantial justice.  (Burdick v. Superior Court, supra, 233 Cal.App.4th at p. 18.) To determine whether the Court should exercise personal jurisdiction over any individual, the “proper question is not where the plaintiff experienced a particular injury or effect but whether the defendant’s conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way.”  (Id. at p. 24, citing Walden v. Fiore (2014) 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1125.)

A state may exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident who purposefully avails himself or herself of the forum’s benefits because the state has a manifest interest in providing its residents with a forum for redressing injuries inflicted by out-of-state actors, and where individual derive economic benefit from interstate activities it would be unfair to allow them to escape having to account in other states for the consequences that arise from such activities.  (Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc., supra, 14 Cal.4th at p. 447.)  The Vons court further noted that modern transportation and communications makes defending in another state a much less burdensome proposition today.  (Ibid.)

Here, Brandt contends he has been a resident of South Carolina for 32 years and that he has never resided in California.  (Brandt Decl., ¶¶ 3 and 5.)  He’s a South Carolina attorney who represents Plaintiff Timothy Crockett’s family in an action pending in South Carolina relating to the same property.  (Brandt Decl., ¶¶ 1, 7, and 8.)  The parties (except First American Title Insurance Company), the property at issue, and the witnesses are located in South Carolina.  (Brandt Decl., ¶ 9.)  Brandt has no personal or professional ties to California.  (Brandt Decl., ¶ 6.)  Plaintiff did not oppose the motion and thus offered no evidence to show the Court may properly exercise jurisdiction over Brandt.  Accordingly, the motion is granted.  The service of summons and Complaint upon Brandt is hereby ordered quashed.  Brandt is dismissed from this action for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Specially appearing Defendant Brandt shall give notice of the ruling.

DEMURRER TO COMPLAINT

Defendant First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”) demurs generally and specially to Plaintiff’s Complaint and the cause of action alleged therein.  The special demurrer for uncertainty is sustained with 30 days leave to amend.

A demurrer for uncertainty is strictly construed, even where a complaint is in some respects uncertain, because ambiguities can be clarified under modern discovery procedures.” (Khoury v. Maly’s of California, Inc. (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 612, 616.) Errors and confusion created by “the inept pleader” are to be forgiven if the pleading contains sufficient facts entitling plaintiff to relief. (Saunders v. Cariss (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 905, 908.)  A party attacking a pleading on “uncertainty” grounds must specify how and why the pleading is uncertain, and where that uncertainty can be found in the challenged pleading. (Fenton v. Groveland Community Services Dept. (1982) 135 Cal.App.3d 797, 809, disapproved on other grounds in Katzberg v. Regents of the University of California (2002) 29 Cal.4th 300.)

California Rule of Court 2.112 provides as follows:

Each separately stated cause of action, count, or defense must specifically state:

(1) Its number (e.g., “first cause of action”);

(2) Its nature (e.g., “for fraud”);

(3) The party asserting it if more than one party is represented on the pleading (e.g., “by plaintiff Jones”); and

(4) The party or parties to whom it is directed (e.g., “against defendant Smith”)

The Complaint does not comply with this rule of court.  Plaintiff did not identify the nature of his cause of action.  The Complaint alleges that the cause of action is for “Business Tort/Unfair Trade Practices/Fiduciary Violation/Violation of State and Federal Laws.”  (Complaint, at p. 2, § 8.)  Reviewing the allegations does not show what cause of action is alleged.  On its face, it appears that the defects can be cured by amendment.  Accordingly, the special demurrer is sustained with 30 days leave to amend.

Plaintiff did not oppose the demurrer, but served and filed a motion to strike the demurrer.  In response, First American filed and served a notice of errata, correcting typographical errors and making minor, unsubstantial changes to the demurrer.  The December 20, 2019 hearing on Plaintiff’s motion to strike the demurrer is hereby vacated, as the motion has been rendered moot by this ruling.

The Court notes that if Plaintiff is still incarcerated at the time an amended complaint is due, the mailbox/prison delivery rule will be applied.  (Moore v. Twomey (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 910, 912 [a self-represented prisoner’s complaint is deemed constructively filed at the time it is properly delivered to state prison employees].)

The November 22, 2019 case management conference is hereby continued to February 21, 2020 at 9 am in this Department.

 

First American shall give notice of the ruling and of the continued case management conference on February 21, 2020.