Vickie S. Hagan And David S. Hagan, Appellant V. Beth Grant Field, Appellee


VICKIE S. HAGAN AND DAVID S. HAGAN, Appellant v. BETH GRANT FIELD, Appellee

No. 05-05-00841-CV

COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FIFTH DISTRICT, DALLAS

2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 393

January 18, 2006, Opinion Filed

NOTICE: [*1] PLEASE CONSULT THE TEXAS RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE FOR CITATION OF MEMORANDUM OPINIONS AND UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

PRIOR HISTORY: On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2, Dallas County, Texas. Trial Court Cause No. 04-13329-B.

DISPOSITION: REVERSED and RENDERED.

CASE SUMMARY:

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: In an interlocutory appeal, appellant Colorado residents sought review of an order of the County Court at Law No. 2, Dallas County (Texas), which denied their special appearance in an action filed against them by appellee Texas resident arising out of a dispute over the breeding of two cats. On appeal, the Colorado residents contended that the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over them.

OVERVIEW: The parties met in Colorado at a cat show. On appeal, the court determined that the exercise of jurisdiction over the Colorado residents did not comport with due process. The court rejected the Texas resident's argument that the Colorado residents had "purposefully directed" their activities to the forum and that the litigation resulted from injuries arising out of or relating to those activities. The court noted that the Colorado residents were not Texas residents, they owned no property there, had no place of business there, and conducted no business there. The fact that the Colorado residents took a single trip to Texas to pick up two cats they had lent to the Texas resident and take care of a few other cat-related items, such as a vet visit, did not establish jurisdiction. The cats at issue on the Texas trip were not the same cats involved in the dispute. Nor did a contract between the parties, with a Texas forum selection clause, establish jurisdiction, because the action did not allege a breach of that contract. Finally, the fact that the Colorado residents sent the proceeds of the cat breeding to the Texas resident in Texas was not sufficient to establish minimum contacts.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered judgment dismissing the claims against the Colorado residents for want of personal jurisdiction.

COUNSEL: For APPELLANT: Emil Lippe, Jr., Law Offices of Lippe & Associates, Dallas, TX.

For APPELLEE: Douglas T. Floyd, Attorney at Law, Plano, TX.

JUDGES: Before Justices O'Neill, Lang and Mazzant. Opinion By Justice O'Neill.

OPINIONBY: MICHAEL J. O'NEILL

OPINION:

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this interlocutory appeal, appellants Vickie S. Hagan and David S. Hagan appeal the trial court's order denying their special appearance. In two issues, the Hagans generally contend the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over them. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's judgment and dismiss Beth Grant Field's claims against the Hagans for want of jurisdiction.

This issue presented in this case is whether the Hagans had sufficient minimum contacts with Texas to support specific jurisdiction over Field's claims. The Hagans, Colorado residents, are in the cat breeding business. Field, a Texas resident, met the Hagans in Colorado at a cat show. Field and the Hagans became friendly and discussed purchasing and breeding cats. Field and the Hagans subsequently agreed to breed two cats, "Rocky" [*2] and "Cordelia." These cats were sent to the Hagans in Colorado for the Hagans to care for and breed. Proceeds received from the breeding were to be shared with Field. Field also sent a third cat, Hollywood, to the Hagans in Colorado to be sold to a third party.

A dispute regarding Rocky and Cordelia subsequently arose and Field sued the Hagans in Texas. In her petition, Field complained the Hagans "failed to return" Rocky and Cordelia and requested damages for the fair market value and the fair breeding value of those cats. Although Field also requested damages for the "loss" of Hollywood, she did not allege any complaints, tortious or contractual, regarding that cat. The Hagans filed a special appearance alleging the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over them because they did not have minimum contacts with the State of Texas. Field responded to the special appearance alleging specific jurisdiction existed. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the special appearance. This appeal followed.

A Texas court may exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if (1) the Texas long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction [*3] is consistent with the due process clause of the United States constitution. See BMC Software Belgium, N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 795, 45 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 930 (Tex. 2002). The Texas long-arm statute permits Texas courts to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident that "does business" in Texas. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. ? ? 17.042 (Vernon 1997). The broad language of the long-arm statute permits a Texas court to exercise jurisdiction as far as the federal constitution will permit. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d at 795. Consequently, we need only determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with the due process clause of the United States Constitution. See City of Riverview, Michigan v. Am. Factors Inc., 77 S.W.3d 855, 857 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2002, no pet.).

The due process clause of the federal constitution permits a court to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if (1) the defendant has purposefully established minimum contacts with the forum state, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945). [*4] A defendant's contacts with a forum state may give rise to either general or specific jurisdiction. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d at 795-96; Rittenmeyer v. Grauer, 104 S.W.3d 725, 729 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2003, no pet.). In this case, Field is asserting only that specific jurisdiction existed over the Hagans. Specific jurisdiction exists if the defendant's activities have been "purposefully directed" to the forum and the litigation results from injuries arising out of or relating to those activities. Magic House AB v. Shelton Beverage L.P., 99 S.W.3d 903, 908 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2003, no pet.); see also Rittenmeyer, 104 S.W.3d at 729. The defendant's purposeful conduct, not the unilateral acts of the plaintiff, must have caused the contact. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S. Ct. 1868, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404 & n.8, 466 U.S. 408, 104 S. Ct. 1868, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404 (1984). In determining specific jurisdiction, we focus on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation. Guardian Royal Exch. Assurance, Ltd. v. English China Clays, P.L.C., 815 S.W.2d 223, 228, 34 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 376 (Tex. 1991).

In their special appearance, the Hagans [*5] established they are not Texas residents, they own no property in Texas, have no place of business in Texas, and conduct no business in Texas. To show the Hagans nevertheless had sufficient minimum contacts with Texas, Field relies primarily on a single trip the Hagans made to Texas. The purpose of this trip was to pick up two cats the Hagans had lent to Field for a cat show. These cats are not the subject of any claims in this suit. While in Texas, the Hagans discussed cats and cat breeding in general with Field. The Hagans also attended a vet appointment for another cat not related to the claims at issue. Finally, during the Texas visit, Field's husband assisted the Hagans with a web page for their business. However, there is no evidence in the record that the cats involved with the claims at issue were in any way related to the Texas trip. Nor did anything occur during that trip that is relevant to the claims at issue.

To establish jurisdiction, Field also relies on a written contract regarding Hollywood that states any dispute regarding that contract would be resolved in Texas. However, there are no claims in the petition regarding a breach of the Hollywood contract. Indeed, Field [*6] does not allege the Hagans did or failed to do anything with respect to that cat. Thus, the forum selection clause does not establish jurisdiction in this case. See Accelerated Christian Educ. Inc. v. Oracle Corp., 925 S.W.2d 66, 72 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1996, no writ).

After reviewing the undisputed facts, we conclude the only contact that does "arise from or relate to" the the subject matter of the suit is that the Hagans sent the proceeds for the breeding of Cordelia and Rocky to Field in Texas. This is not sufficient to establish minimum contacts. See U-Anchor Adver. Inc. v. Burt, 553 S.W.2d 760, 763, 20 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 435 (Tex.1977); P.V.F. v. Pro Metals, Inc., 60 S.W.3d 320, 328 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, pet. denied). We reverse the trial court's judgment and render judgment dismissing the claims against the Hagans for want of personal jurisdiction.

MICHAEL J. O'NEILL

JUSTICE