Mo. eBay seller can't be sued in Kentucky

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 31, 2011


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - The Kentucky Supreme Court says a man cannot sue a Missouri truck seller in state court for a faulty vehicle he bought on eBay.

The Court filed its 22-page unanimous opinion on March 24.

In its ruling, it upheld an appeals court's decision reversing a trial court's order, agreeing that the transaction was a "random," "fortuitous" and "attenuated" contact with the state.

The Kentucky resident, Gerald S. Hinners, sued Brad Robey, of Missouri, over the purchase of a 2002 Cadillac Escalade that Robey advertised for sale on the Internet auction website.

Robey's listing described the vehicle as having no prior collision damage, no electrical problems, that it ran remarkably quiet, and that it was "better than average." The listing also advertised a warranty consisting of a free one-month, 1,000-mile service agreement.

Hinners won the vehicle with a bid of $25,869 and traveled to Missouri to take possession. Robey, at that time, again assured him that the vehicle was never damaged. At completion of the sale, the parties renegotiated the sales price at $23,000 rather than the bid amount.

Immediately after Hinners returned to Kentucky with the vehicle, its electrical system malfunctioned, he testified.

After taking the vehicle to a mechanic for inspection, he was told that the vehicle had suffered extensive prior damage; that almost every panel on the vehicle had been damaged and had been either replaced or filled with body putty; that the vehicle had been completely repainted; and that the front doors and glass had been replaced. Also, shattered window glass was found in various locations in the vehicle.

Hinners took the vehicle in for repairs on at least six occasions, principally for electrical problems.

After trying to contact Robey several times, Hinners filed a complaint against Robey in Kenton Circuit Court. The complaint alleged that Robey defrauded Hinners "in that the defendant knew, or should have known, that the vehicle had been extensively damaged and failed to disclose that information to the plaintiff."

Robey moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction on the grounds that he was a non-resident defendant and was not otherwise subject to in personam jurisdiction under Kentucky's long-arm statute, KRS 454.2 10, or under federal due process minimum contact standards.

The trial court concluded that it had personal jurisdiction over Robey. And after entry of the order overruling his motion to dismiss, Robey failed to further participate in the proceedings. As a consequence, and upon motion by Hinners, the trial court entered a default judgment in favor of Hinners and awarded him damages of $36,320.05. Robey appealed the judgment.

The appeals court reversed the trial court's order, saying that Robey did not have sufficient minimum contacts with Kentucky to allow a state court to assert personal jurisdiction over him.

In its opinion, authored by Justice Daniel J. Venters, the state's high court concluded that this particular eBay transaction does fall within the parameters of KRS 454.2 10.

However, it also concluded that the transaction "fails to establish sufficient minimum contacts with Kentucky so as to make it reasonable under federal due process standards for Kentucky courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over Robey in relation to the vehicle sale."

The Court remanded the matter to the circuit court for entry of judgment.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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