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ONLINE SALES IN NEW JERSEY

By Logan R.D. Stagnitto, Esq. December 13, 2019 Posted in Community Association Law

Over the years, an increasing number of shoppers purchase products online. This reality is especially true during the holiday season. While many buyers make these purchases through large retailers or companies with offices all over the country (e.g., Amazon.com, Target.com), many people still purchase from individuals who post advertisements online. With that in mind, it is essential that consumers be aware of what obstacles they may face when buying a faulty product from an out-of-state seller.

In New Jersey, if a buyer purchases an item from a seller, and that item does not perform as advertised, the buyer may look to the law for recourse. But in order for a buyer to seek the help of the court, the court must have jurisdiction.  One of the things that the courts require is that there be “minimum contact” by the seller with the State in which the buyer sues.

If the buyer and the seller exchanged goods and money in a face-to-face interaction in New Jersey, for example, then the New Jersey courts have jurisdiction.  If, however, the product was purchased online, obtaining jurisdiction is trickier. If the seller is a large store that sells throughout the country, it can most likely be sued in New Jersey too because it has strong New Jersey contacts. When the seller is an individual or smaller company from another state, though, it may be challenging to make the seller submit to New Jersey law.

New Jersey’s Appellate Division recently tested this concept in the case Jardim v. Overley, No. A-1073-18T3, 2019 N.J. Super. LEXIS 160, 2019 WL 5996220 (App. Div. Nov. 14, 2019). In this case, the Defendant, a California resident, advertised in 1960 Buick for sale on the website Hemmings.com to “‘to whomever was willing to purchase it, wherever they may be.’” The Plaintiff was a used car salesman with offices in New Jersey. The Plaintiff agreed to pay $40,000 and arrange to have the car transported from California to New Jersey. The Plaintiff arranged for financing through a New Jersey bank, and he asked that the Defendant work with the bank. In the end, though, when the car was delivered from California to New Jersey, the Plaintiff discovered it had lots of problems, it was not in the condition advertised, and would cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

Based upon the car’s condition, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant. The court, after looking at all the facts, determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the Defendant. It found that the Defendant was not subject to the authority of the New Jersey court because Defendant did not have “minimum contacts” in New Jersey. Selling to a New Jersey consumer was not enough. The court came to this decision because, among other things: the Plaintiff reached out to the Defendant, instead of the other way around; and the seller did not persistently try to get the buyer to purchase the car; the buyer and the seller never met in person; the Plaintiff and Defendant had never engaged in a previous sale with one another before. The court held that he could sue in California, but that was little comfort to this buyer.

This case is significant because it means that purchasers are taking a risk when they buy products online, especially from individuals and from small business concerns out of State. It is essential to always know with whom you are dealing, and for major purchases, that you are using larger and reputable companies.

For any questions about this blog, or to schedule a consultation with an attorney, contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. at 973-366-1188 or through our website here!

 

The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances.  Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

 

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