My Vacation Europe, Inc. v. Sigel
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-14-00435-CV (January 26, 2015)
Justices Francis (Opinion), Lang-Miers, and Fillmore
Sigel used My Vacation Europe’s website to book an apartment in Paris. After she suffered a theft in that apartment while she was overseas, Sigel sought to sue My Vacation Europe in Texas. My Vacation Europe filed a special appearance, which the trial court denied. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed, finding no basis for specific or general jurisdiction over My Vacation Europe.
The Court of Appeals rejected specific jurisdiction for two reasons: (1) My Vacation Europe did not purposefully avail itself of the benefits of conducting business in Texas; and (2) the claims arose from actions in Paris, not activity conducted within Texas. Specific jurisdiction is determined by the defendant’s contacts—not the actions of the resident Texan. Therefore, the Court looked only at My Vacation Europe’s purposeful actions directed at Texas. Here, My Vacation Europe merely operated a website that let someone in Texas (or anywhere else) make a reservation to stay in an apartment in Paris that was owned by a third party. It did not target Texas residents, advertise in Texas, or direct marketing efforts to Texas. The Court of Appeals found that the bare fact that Sigel was in Texas when she utilized that website to make a purchase was not sufficient to show that My Vacation Europe purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in Texas.
Second, no specific jurisdiction existed because the claims arose out of a theft in Paris, rather than any actions occurring in Texas. Following the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in Moki Mac River Expeditions v. Drugg, the Dallas Court concluded that the misrepresentations Sigel alleged as the basis for her causes of action were too attenuated from the damages she sought in connection with the theft in Paris to support specific jurisdiction over My Vacation Europe.
The Court of Appeals also rejected Sigel’s argument that My Vacation Europe’s website supported general jurisdiction in Texas. On the sliding scale of interactivity of websites, the Court found this one to be on the low end: somewhere between “passive” and “interactive.” The website displays photos and describes property, but in order to get information on availability and pricing, the user must send a request. Someone with My Vacation Europe then emails a response and directs the potential renter to an online reservation page to complete the transaction. The Dallas Court held this level of interactivity to be insufficient for general jurisdiction, especially when combined with My Vacation Europe’s lack of business contacts, relationships, offices, bank accounts, and property in Texas. As such, My Vacation Europe was not engaged in longstanding business in Texas, and therefore could not be sued in Texas on these facts