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Meyer v. Hatto

December 23, 2008

RICHARD MEYER AND MIRACLES MEYER, APPELLANTS (PLAINTIFFS),
v.
TONY HATTO AND BEN SULLIVAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND TONY HATTO AND BEN SULLIVAN D/B/A DESIGN WORKSHOP, A PARTNERSHIP, APPELLEES (DEFENDANTS).
TONY HATTO AND BEN SULLIVAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND TONY HATTO AND BEN SULLIVAN D/B/A DESIGN WORKSHOP, A PARTNERSHIP, APPELLANTS (DEFENDANTS),
v.
RICHARD MEYER AND MIRACLES MEYER, APPELLEES (PLAINTIFFS)



Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] These two consolidated appeals arise from the dismissal of a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Richard and Miracles Meyer reside in Teton County, Wyoming. They own real property in the State of Hawaii. Tony Hatto and Ben Sullivan reside in Hawaii. They are partners in a business known as Design Workshop, also based in Hawaii. The Meyers entered into a contract with Design Workshop for the design of a residence the Meyers intended to build on their Hawaiian property.

[¶2] The contractual relationship soured and ultimately the Meyers sued Design Workshop, as well as Hatto and Sullivan individually, in Wyoming. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over Hatto, Sullivan, and Design Workshop. In appeal number S-07-0223, the Meyers appeal the dismissal. We affirm.

[¶3] In appeal number S-07-0224, Hatto, Sullivan, and Design Workshop (for the sake of simplicity, the plurality will hereinafter be referred to collectively as "Design Workshop") appeal the denial by the district court of their request for the award of attorneys‟ fees and expenses. We reverse that decision and remand for the determination and award of appropriate attorneys‟ fees and expenses.

ISSUES

[¶4] In appeal number S-07-0223, the Meyers present three issues:

1. Whether the District Court erred when it dismissed Plaintiffs‟ claims on the ground that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the Defendants?

2. Should the District Court have granted an evidentiary hearing to determine the nature, quality, quantity and sufficiency of the contacts that the Defendants had with Wyoming before dismissing the case for lack of in personam jurisdiction?

3. Did Defendants‟ [sic] submit to the jurisdiction of the District Court by claiming affirmative relief in the form of a request for recovery of attorneys‟ fees and costs?

[¶5] In appeal number S-07-0224, Design Workshop requests this Court review the district court‟s denial of its motion for attorneys‟ fees and costs for abuse of discretion.

FACTS

[¶6] While in Hawaii, the Meyers were referred to Design Workshop by a local contractor. The Meyers approached Design Workshop in Hawaii to enlist its help in designing the residence they planned to build on their Hawaiian property. Even though no member of Design Workshop had any connection to Wyoming, whether business or personal, the Meyers decided to work with the Hawaiian company. Mr. Meyer drafted a contract after he returned to his residence in Wyoming. In September 2004, the Meyers returned to Hawaii to meet again with Design Workshop. Some changes to the contract were agreed upon and the "Agreement for Designing Services" (Agreement) was executed by the parties.

[¶7] After the Agreement was executed, the Meyers returned to Wyoming. Mr. Meyer, with the knowledge of Design Workshop, hired a contractor from Wyoming. Eventually, the contractor obtained a general contractor‟s license in Hawaii so he could work on the project there. Mr. Meyer also consulted various other tradesmen in Wyoming about the Hawaii project.

[¶8] The Agreement contained terms indicating that the parties thereto would work closely together on the project. For instance:

Designer will conduct a pre-design meeting with Meyer and Meyer‟s contractor. In this meeting Designer will discuss the design program with the team. As a team, all parties will then determine an appropriate budget and scope of work for the project.

According to an affidavit in support of the motion to dismiss by Ben Sullivan, such close collaboration did indeed occur:

After entering into the Contract, Design Workshop spent 18 months fully designing the home in question for the Meyers, working closely with the Meyers and their contractor, Bill Swensen, on the program for the home, materials and potential cost-saving measures. Design Workshop‟s efforts went far beyond the scope of the Contract, and included lengthy and frequent interaction with the Meyers‟ contractor to select materials and building systems, and to save money by exploring extraordinary materials sourcing options, such [as] a custom pre-fabricated whole house structural system from Bali.

These contacts were either in person in Hawaii or Bali, or by telephone, fax, or regular mail between Design Workshop in Hawaii and the Meyers and their contractor in Wyoming. No ...


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