The organizer of an LPGA golf tournament will not be drawn into a California lawsuit after a state appeals court affirmed an order granting a motion to quash service for lack of personal jurisdiction.
“(S)ubstantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that (the defendant) did not purposefully avail itself of the benefits and protections of doing business in California,” wrote the court.
The plaintiff in the case was Artists Management Group, LLC (Artists), a California-based management firm. One of the company’s employees, Arthur Bernier, happened to be good friends with an officer at Global Golf Management, Inc. (Global), which was the defendant in the case. Global is an Illinois company engaged in the business of event planning for professional golf tournaments. The global employee, Michael Harmon, had a conversation with Bernier in which he “mentioned in passing the availability of ownership rights to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament that was to take place in Ohio in the spring of 2001, known as the LPGA Champions Classic Tournament (the tournament).”
Ultimately, Bernier, on behalf of Artists, obtained the contractual ownership rights to the tournament, which was held in May of 2001. Artists fired Bernier in August of 2001. The following year, it filed a complaint against Bernier, “alleging that he had breached his fiduciary duty and committed negligence by acquiring the ownership rights of the tournament without Artists’s authority.” Six months later, Artists filed an amended complaint against Bernier with the same causes of action and also named Harmon and Global as defendants. Artists alleged that all defendants conspired to convert monies from the tournament’s ticket sales and pledges from community sponsors and interfered with its contractual relationships.
Global moved to quash service of process on the ground of lack of personal jurisdiction or alternatively to dismiss the action on the ground of inconvenient forum, leading to the present opinion.
Affirming the trial court’s finding, the appeals wrote that “contrary to Artists’s assertions, the evidence does not establish that Harmon, on behalf of Global, contacted Artists in California to actively solicit its involvement with the tournament, or that Global entered into any partnership with any California entity, or that Global utilized any California company for payroll or other financial functions, or that anyone on behalf of Global traveled to California to further a relationship between Global and any California entity, or that Global solicited sponsorship pledges in California or on behalf of a California entity.
“At most, the evidence establishes that Harmon occasionally contacted Artists in California via e-mail and telephone calls and that Global sent three payments to California. But it appears that all of these contacts were made in furtherance of Global’s services as operator and planner of the tournament in Ohio, and not in an effort to establish a partnership with a California entity or to otherwise avail itself of California’s benefits.
“Moreover, the evidence established that Global had contracted its services to CCN for the prior eight annual LPGA events held at the Ohio course and there was no evidence to suggest that CCN would have refused to engage Global’s services for the tournament unless a California entity was involved.” Artists Management Group, LLC v. Global Golf Management, Inc.; Ct.App.Calif.2nd App.Dist.D2; B168545; 7/28/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Timothy J. Gorry and Jon-Jamison Hill of Gorry Meyer & Rudd, for Plaintiff and Appellant. (for defendant) Ira N. Katz of Law Offices of Ira N. Katz.