Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Ga., LLC

Citation53 Cal.App.5th 1231,268 Cal.Rptr.3d 365
Decision Date26 August 2020
Docket NumberE072909
Parties Cheryl THURSTON et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. FAIRFIELD COLLECTIBLES OF GEORGIA, LLC, Defendant and Respondent.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals

53 Cal.App.5th 1231
268 Cal.Rptr.3d 365

Cheryl THURSTON et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,


Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2, California.

Filed August 26, 2020



268 Cal.Rptr.3d 368
53 Cal.App.5th 1234

Plaintiffs Cheryl Thurston and Luis Licea (collectively Thurston) are Californians. Defendant Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (Fairfield) is a Georgia limited liability company. It vends its wares through

53 Cal.App.5th 1235

catalogs and through its website. In this action, Thurston alleges that Fairfield's website is not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. ( Civ. Code, § 51 et seq. )

The trial court granted Fairfield's motion to quash service of summons. It ruled that California could not obtain personal jurisdiction over Fairfield, because Fairfield did not have sufficient minimum contacts with California.

We will reverse. The evidence showed that Fairfield makes some eight to ten percent of its sales to Californians. Hence, its website is the equivalent of a physical store in California. Moreover, this case arises out of the operation of that website. The trial court therefore can properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Fairfield.



The following facts were shown by the evidence offered in support of and in opposition to the motion to quash.

Fairfield is the largest retail seller of diecast models via catalogs and the Internet in America. It is a Georgia limited liability company. Its principal place of business is in Georgia. It has never had an office in California. It does not employ any resident of California.

Fairfield's only contact with California is that its sales through its catalogs and its website include some sales to Californians. Fairfield sells to wholesalers as well as direct to consumers. It makes about eight percent of its total sales to Californians. Out of its sales to consumers only, it makes a little over ten percent to Californians. Fairfield's total sales to California addresses are about $320,000 to $375,000 a year.



Thurston filed this action in 2018. She asserted a single cause of action, for violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

She alleged that she was blind; that she needed a "screen reader" to use the Internet; and that Fairfield's website had "access barriers," which interfered with the use of a screen reader and thus prevented blind people from having

53 Cal.App.5th 1236

"full and equal access" to the website. Among other things, the website did not comply with the most recent "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" (Guidelines) promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Thurston also alleged that she is acting as a "tester," meaning that she visits websites to determine whether they comply with antidiscrimination laws. Nevertheless, she "genuinely want[s] to avail [herself] of [Fairfield]'s goods and services as offered on [Fairfield]'s website." She had made "several attempts to use and navigate [Fairfield's w]ebsite," but had been unable to do so due to its "accessibility barriers." These barriers had "deterred [her] from purchasing [Fairfield's] products ...."

Fairfield promptly filed a motion to quash, based on lack of personal jurisdiction. After hearing argument, the trial

268 Cal.Rptr.3d 369

court granted the motion. It commented, in part, that Fairfield "did not direct its website toward California."




"A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States." ( Code Civ. Proc., § 410.10.)

"The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment constrains a State's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts. [Citation.] Although a nonresident's physical presence within the territorial jurisdiction of the court is not required, the nonresident generally must have ‘certain minimum contacts ... such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." ’ [Citation.]" ( Walden v. Fiore (2014) 571 U.S. 277, 283, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 188 L.Ed.2d 12.)

There are "two types of personal jurisdiction: ‘general’ (sometimes called ‘all-purpose’) jurisdiction and ‘specific’ (sometimes called ‘case-linked’) jurisdiction. [Citation.]" ( Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (2017) ––– U.S. ––––, [137 S.Ct. 1773, 1779-1780], 198 L.Ed.2d 395.)

53 Cal.App.5th 1237

Thurston disclaims any reliance on general jurisdiction. Hence, we discuss only specific jurisdiction.

" ‘When determining whether specific jurisdiction exists, courts consider the " ‘relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.’ " [Citation.] A court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if: (1) "the defendant has purposefully availed himself or herself of forum benefits" [citation]; (2) "the ‘controversy is related to or "arises out of" [the] defendant's contacts with the forum’ " [citation]; and (3) " ‘the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with "fair play and substantial justice" ’ " [citation]’ [Citation.]" ( Snowney v. Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1054, 1062, 29 Cal.Rptr.3d 33, 112 P.3d 28 ; accord, In re Boon Global Limited (9th Cir. 2019) 923 F.3d 643, 651.)

" ‘When a defendant moves to quash service of process’ for lack of specific jurisdiction, ‘the plaintiff has the initial burden of demonstrating facts justifying the exercise of jurisdiction.’ [Citation.] ‘If the plaintiff meets this initial burden, then the defendant has the burden of demonstrating "that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable." ’ [Citation.]" ( Snowney v. Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., supra , 35 Cal.4th at p. 1062, 29 Cal.Rptr.3d 33, 112 P.3d 28.)

"When there is conflicting evidence, the trial court's factual determinations are not disturbed on appeal if supported by substantial evidence. [Citation.] When no conflict in the evidence exists, however, the question of jurisdiction is purely one of law and the reviewing court engages in an independent review of the record. [Citation.]" ( Vons Companies, Inc. v. Seabest Foods, Inc. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 434, 449, 58 Cal.Rptr.2d 899, 926 P.2d 1085.)

A. Purposeful Availment.

Due process requires purposeful availment because it "gives a degree of predictability to the legal system that allows potential defendants to structure

268 Cal.Rptr.3d 370

their primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where that conduct will and will not render them liable to suit." ( World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson (1980) 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490.) "When a corporation ‘purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State,’ [citation], it has clear notice that it is subject to suit there, and can act to alleviate the risk of burdensome litigation by procuring insurance, passing the expected costs on to customers, or, if the risks are too great, severing its connection with the State." ( Ibid. )

"To determine whether a Web site is sufficient to establish purposeful availment, we first look to [a] sliding scale analysis .... [Citation.] ‘At one

53 Cal.App.5th 1238

end of the spectrum are situations where a defendant clearly does business over the Internet. If the defendant enters into contracts with residents of a foreign jurisdiction that involve the knowing and repeated transmission of computer files over the Internet, personal jurisdiction is proper. [Citation.] At the opposite end are situations where a defendant has simply posted information on an Internet Web site which is accessible to users in foreign jurisdictions. A passive Web site that does little more than make information available to those who are interested in it is not grounds for the exercise [of] personal jurisdiction. [Citation.] The middle ground is occupied by interactive Web sites where a user can exchange information with the host computer. In these cases, the exercise of jurisdiction is determined by examining the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on the Web site.’ [Citation.]" ( Snowney v. Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., supra , 35 Cal.4th at p. 1063, 29 Cal.Rptr.3d 33, 112 P.3d 28.)2

" ‘Some courts have held that sufficient minimum contacts are established, and the defendant is "doing business" over the Internet, where the defendant's website is capable of accepting and does accept purchase orders from residents of the forum state.’ [Citation.] Other courts have suggested that ‘ "something more" ’ is necessary,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • Morgado v. City of S.F.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 26, 2020
  • The Basketry, Inc. v. The Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 4, 2021 California to Ogletree's claim that its Web site violated the ADA. We conclude the instant case differs in material degree from Thurston. And what we discern from authorities, is that specific personal jurisdiction based on interactive Web site activity is a factually intensive issue and......
  • Thurston v. Ricardo Beverly Hills, Inc.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 8, 2021
    ...for lack of personal jurisdiction. Thurston appeals. We apply the law as stated in our recent opinion in Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 1231. It leads, however, to a somewhat different result. There, we held that the trial court had personal jurisdi......
  • Ghuman v. Gronager
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 19, 2020
    ...some minimum assurance as to where that conduct will and will not render them liable to suit.' " (Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 1231, 1237 (Thurston), quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson (1980) 444 U.S. 286, 297.) " 'The purposeful avail......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT