Recently, we defended a client that was not from New York State. He was getting sued in NY, and the the plaintiff's attorney tried to bring our client, who lived thousands of miles away, into the state through NY's long-arm jurisdiction statute (CPLR 302(a)), which is legal parlance that means - if you hurt someone in NY, NY can get you. Here are a few tips to protect yourself:
(1) Don't do anything wrong.
Ha, but seriously, don't. The primary way long-arm jurisdiction can be engaged is when an individual commits a tortious act (a civil wrong), either inside the state, or outside by reaching in. A good rule to live by is: don't commit tortious acts, like punching strangers or breaching contracts.
(2) Be a tourist.
If you are in NY for vacation don't "do deals." That doesn't mean that you can't meet business people or connect with business friends. But as soon as you "transact" business, NY can get you.
(3) Use email to clarify your intentions.
If you are meeting people in NY memorialize what for and why. If for instance you are meeting a friend of a friend for lunch at Grand Central, and he sues you a couple of months later saying you were transacting business, use email to prove you were just in Grand Central to see the stars.
(4) Double check your contracts.
Many times individuals sign contracts without reading all the way through. Usually toward the bottom of the contract, often referred to as the boilerplate section, there is a "choice of law" and or "venue" provision that says where your contract can be adjudicated and under what law. Make sure your home state is the state of choice there.
(5) Your phone is a hook
This is not really a way not to get sued, but you need to be aware of this. If you are from another state and you actually transact business with anyone in NY State, and they allege you committed (or are committing) a tortious act related to that transaction, you can be brought in. In short, if you are doing business with a New Yorker, you are availing yourself of NY law, which gives NY courts the right to call you in.
We were able to get a big win for our client on a foreign jurisdiction issue at the beginning of this year. If you are interested in reading the decision you can see it here: