Business Law

Selling Items On EBay May Lead To Personal Jurisdiction In Missouri

In a recent decision, the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously held that a non-Missouri business that sells products on EBay or other auction sites can be sued in a Missouri Court by a Missouri resident claiming a defect with the product.

In Andia v. Left Gate Property, Inc., No. SC93984 (February 24, 2015) the Missouri Supreme Court held that Left Gate Property, a Texas automobile dealership which is self-described as the “largest EBay vehicle dealership in the world”, would be subject to personal jurisdiction by a Court in St. Louis County.

Andia, the plaintiff, purchased a 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali by viewing the vehicle description on E-bay. Like many other purchasers, he agreed to purchase the vehicle by clicking on EBay’s “Buy It Now” button. After he completed the purchase, Andia spoke to Left Gate representatives in Texas to discuss delivery of the vehicle. Left Gate thereafter mailed a retail Installment Sales Contract and federal Buyers Guide to Andia in Missouri. Left Gate employees called Andia at least 2 more times to discuss delivery. The truck was delivered to Andia in Missouri by an independent transporter. Thereafter certain defects in the vehicle were observed and Andia sued Left Gate Property for breach of contract in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The Missouri Supreme Court held there was sufficient “minimum contacts” for Left Gate Property to be subject to personal jurisdiction by a Missouri Court. The Court held that Left Gate used EBay as a broad platform to conduct regular commercial activities in Missouri. It held that because 0.86% of Left Gate’s business per year was derived from sales in Missouri, this was sufficient for the imposition jurisdiction, along with reaching out through mail and telephone communications with Missouri residents.

This case should provide a warning to out-of-state retailers that use EBay to conduct their business, that a Missouri customer could sue the retailer in a Missouri Court even though only a minute percentage of its sales are to Missouri customers. The decision leaves open the question whether non-commercial non-resident Missouri sellers of products using EBay to sell items on a one-shot basis could be subject to jurisdiction in a suit brought in a Missouri Court by a Missouri resident.

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