Picot v. Weston

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-19-2015
  • Case #: 12-17098
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tashima for the Court; Circuit Judge Paez and Senior District Judge Quist
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court may properly dismiss a diversity action for lack of specific personal jurisdiction when a defendant neither purposefully avails his or herself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state, nor aims his or her conduct at the forum state.

In 2009, Bernard Picot and Paul David Manos began working with Dean Weston to develop and market an electrolyte formula for use in hydrogen fuel cells (“the technology”). Picot, Manos, and Weston disputed the details of a profit-sharing, oral agreement among themselves. In 2011, Picot and Manos agreed to sell the technology to HMR Hydrogen Master Rights, Ltd. (“HMR”) for $35 million. About a year later, after Weston had learned of the sale, Weston’s lawyer threatened Picot and Manos with litigation if they did not pay Weston pursuant to the disputed profit-sharing agreement. As a result, HMR stopped payments to Picot and Manos. Picot and Manos subsequently filed suit against Weston in California Superior Court for the County of Santa Clara seeking a declaration that no oral agreement existed and damages for intentional interference with the HMR sales contract. Weston removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, and then moved to dismiss the claims for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. The district court concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Weston, granted Weston’s motion to dismiss, and denied the motion to transfer as moot. Picot appealed. On review, the Ninth Circuit held that Weston, a resident of Michigan, did not have the requisite minimum contacts with California, nor had his actions connected him to California sufficiently to warrant the exercise of personal jurisdiction. Applying jurisdictional tests for contracts and torts, the panel reasoned that Weston had not purposefully availed himself of privilege of conducting activities in California, nor had Weston purposefully directed his actions at California. AFFIRMED.

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