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Personal Jurisdiction on the Internet

What is personal jurisdiction? It is the court’s authority to determine a claim affecting a specific person. Generally, providing any type of data or information on the world-wide-web (i.e., Internet) is insufficient to subject a person to personal jurisdiction in each state wherein the date or information is accessed. However, a nonresident’s online activity, must be expressly targeted at, or directed to, the forum state in order to establish minimum contacts necessary to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction. In general, personal jurisdiction may not be exercised against a nonresident whose website was not directed toward any state.

If a non-resident defendant publishes statements that fall under the category of defamatory comments concerning the plaintiff on a website, the effects of which were clearly directed at the forum state, result in sufficient contact with the forum to warrant the assertion of jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. On the other hand, the publication of defamatory comments concerning the plaintiff on a website is not, by itself enough to support the exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant (e.g., when an article was not specifically directed to residents in the forum state, or was not primarily directed at the plaintiff in that state).

Our readers must keep in mind that the tort of defamation can be committed in the jurisdiction (i.e., the state), even if the message was not directed there, if it has effects in that state.

Generally, a court may assert jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in a patent infringement action wherein the defendant’s website was directed at the forum state. Courts have also found, under particular circumstances, that a defendant’s web activity was directed at the forum state, supporting the court’s assertion of jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant in an action for breach of contract. Even though a defendant’s marketing did not specifically target customers in the forum state, and its business process was completely automated, long-arm jurisdiction may still be based on a finding that it was exploiting that state’s market.

Also, if a person routes his/her customer’s e-mail through another’s mail server (with the knowledge that the unauthorized traffic was causing problems for that person) is evidence showing that defendant purposefully directed his/her conduct at the forum state and can be a basis on which to assert jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant.

If you have any further questions or concerns, contact the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh for a consultation.