eBay Buyer Can’t Sue Out-of-State Seller in Home State, Says Court

In what is believed to the the first case of its kind, a judge in New York has held that a resident of New York who purchases something over eBay cannot sue the seller in New York if the seller lives elsewhere.

Put another way, the Court ruled that the seller, who in this case lives in Missourri, cannot be reached by New York’s jurisdiction just because he sold something to someone who lives in New York, even if he did cheat the New York buyer.

The issue arose when Masood H. Sayeedi bid on and won a Chevy engine. He paid the seller, Timothy Walser, nearly $1,500 for it. Walser’s eBay listing claimed that the engine was brand new, “fresh from the shop”, and “built by a pro”.

In reality, when Sayeedi received the engine, he had to take it in to a mechanic, and another $1,100 later, he was told that the camshaft was damaged, the connecting rod broken, and, the mechanic’s report advised, “Engine is no good, need to replace engine.”

That’s when Sayeedi sued in New York on the premise that by selling across the Internet to a resident of New York, Walser had conducted business in New York state sufficient to draw him in to New York’s jurisdiction.

The judge, Philip Straniere, held that Sayeedi’s premise was wrong, holding that “Given this unique sale style, even though a contract may be formed, the location of delivery is not likely in the seller’s realm of contemplation. In the typical on-line auction sale the ultimate destination of any item is completely determined by the potential buyers through the bidding process. Accordingly, to summon the Defendant into a New York court on this matter would contravene the traditional notions of ‘fair play’ and ‘substantial justice’ that have become the touchstone of personal jurisdiction.”

 

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The Court concluded that “The Court lacks the personal jurisdiction required to reach the merits of this case. A single transaction conducted on-line via eBay between members where one member is a resident of a state other than New York, without more, does not constitute sufficient purposeful availment to satisfy the minimum contacts necessary to justify summoning across state lines, to a New York court, the seller of an alledgedly non-conforming good.”

Now, before all you eBay sellers go running out and start selling flawed items figuring that so long as the buyer is a few states away, they can’t do anything, there are a few things you need to know about this case.

First, this court was the trial level court. Which means it does not set any precedent. Second, neither party had a lawyer (and in fact Walser didn’t even bother to show up). Had Sayeedi had a lawyer – particularly one knowledgeable about Internet and interstate law – he might have presented a more credible arguement which in turn might have swayed the judge in his favour.

Finally, because this is a trial court decision, Sayeedi can appeal, and if he does, and with a lawyer, this could go in a completely different direction – and as an appeal that would set precedent.

Ironically – or perhaps poetically – the New York civil code which deals with jurisdiction, and which Judge Straniere applied in this case, was code 404, which in this case clearly meant “jurisdiction not found.”

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13 Replies to “eBay Buyer Can’t Sue Out-of-State Seller in Home State, Says Court”

  1. I think that if we as a people would use our energy and breath to do good those that are doing wrongly would go out of business and you could start the next eBay or seller or whatever you are mad at and be better and draw the multitude in and by doing so you will probably end up doing way more damage to the big bad guy then throwing mud in court or on line

  2. I am up for a group lawsuit against ebay there buyer protection is way non existent in my case at least ebay lies and steels and what can be done about it

  3. oops my last posting should read DONT GIVE UP NOT I REPEAT NOT “DO GIVE UP” SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION

  4. How strange it is to find my original complaint listed here on this site.
    as i believe in “alls well that ends well ” even though Ebay ruled against me
    i never gave up as i didnt believe/accept some person on the other side of the phone or that was declining my request for a refund who is not a trained legal scholar just a paid employee as is the person sweeping the floor.
    so after about 5 or 6 communications and about 2 months after being declined i spoke to someone who “listened” and realized my position. though Ebay insisted i should have received the broken box and loose computer then file . which made no sense to me.
    at last there was someone in ebay who agreed/understood my point of view and issued a refund. so my suggestion is if you are right “DO GIVE UP” GOOD LUCK

  5. I think anyone who paid for something that was misrepresented on ebay should file in Small claims court in the state where seller resides. If under 5000 that is. I saw on judge judy a lady sued a younger lady as she thought she paid 200 for a cell phone but only received a picture of a cell phone. Judge Judy gave the buyer 2000.00 plus her 200 back and noted fraudulent deceptive acts by the seller. Maybe everyone should call Judge judy and be on tv

  6. i bought a comp on ebay . seller made a box ,using a single wrap of tape. the result was the box burst open the comp was lying loose in the back of the postal van. the post lady told me this comp was banging around in her van and i should refuse delivery. i did that and filed an ebay dispute. ebays idiotic response denied my claim even though the tracking number showed the seller received the comp back. i want to file a lawsuit against ebay anyone want to join email me email this site and i will get back to you

  7. Edward, dunno if you’ll ever return, but I agree with your points. If the seller clearly states when they ship and they DO ship during that time, a buyer should not leave negative or neutral feedback. However, why would it take you two weeks to finally ship out an item? That’s horrible customer service.

  8. I believe there are many people out there that have a case against ebay for not living up to their buyer protection program. Lets get together to take action against ebay for dishonest practise.

  9. Mr. Sayeedi could have sued in NY, just not as a straight breach of contract case.

    Every state has its own jurisdictional statute. I am unfamiliar with NY law in this respect, but unless it is highly different from most other states, Mr. Sayeedi could have sued under a different theory of law to maintain jurisdiction.

  10. Sorry.
    I didn’t intend to hijack this thread.
    Maybe I should have posted a separate topic.
    I never come to this website.
    It is the first link that showed up when I searched for key words “ebay buyer seller small claims”

  11. What do you all think of this.
    I clearly state in all my ebay item’s descriptions that I ship “within 1-15 days after receipt of payment.”.
    I have now received approximately 5 neutral derogatory feedbacks and 3 negative derogatory feedbacks. All of which the buyer’s complained that I did not ship fast enough or they “felt” it was slow. In each and every incident I had shipped within my promised terms of “1-15 days”. I had done nothing wrong. When a seller list an item on ebay, when they get to the shipping section, ebay policy gives the seller several options for shipping duration, either 1 or 5 or 10 or 15 or up t 30 days.
    But when I informed ebay that I used the options eBay gave me so they should defend the rights they gave me they give me no response.
    Whenever a bidder places a bid on ebay they are given a confirmation screen that states they are entering a binding contract and they are agreeing that they accept the buyer’s terms and everything the buyer states in the description and on the item.
    Not to mention the numerous pages and and info a person must read in order to sign up to become a ebay member.
    So the 5-7 derogatory feedbacks that I’ve received from the buyer’s in which I have kept my promised terms and done nothing wrong, is that not breech of contract? And defamatory?
    Those derogatory feedbacks can and do cause me financial losses.
    In almost every incident the buyer times their feedback to coincide with an important item soon ending. They do that in attempts to ruin the final bidding on the items.
    In 2 cases the buyers have agreed to retract their feedbacks. But the damage has already been done. Although the feedback is removed the comments still remain. Therefore the effects linger.
    Should not ebay be liable to protect a seller in this case? After all it is a option and right they give to a seller.
    I guess the best I can hope to do is to get a court order to have each and every of the unjust derogatory feedbacks removed.
    That would be costly I assume
    I think I should be able to sue all parties.
    Please don’t bother me about grammar. I typed this in one straight nonstop rant.

  12. This is definitely the jurisdiction of Federal courts, since it was interstate commerce. He should definitely get a lawyer and try again, this time in Federal court.

  13. Since the “actual damages” were less than $3,000, would this have even gone to a real “trial court”? Dunno about NY, but IIRC, in many states, if the amount is under $5,000, the case goes to small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court is pretty narrow.

    IANAL, but another course of action might be to take this to federal authorities and file a complaint of wire fraud. If Walser was found guilty of wire fraud, he could be forced to pay restitution as part of his sentencing.

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