Zippo test not applied to determine general personal jurisdiction

In the recent decision in Heidle v. The Prospect Reef Resort, Ltd., the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York has declined to apply the well-known test set forth in Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc. to determine whether to exercise general personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant. The court held that notwithstanding other circuits’ application of the Zippo test in a general jurisdiction analysis, the Second Circuit applies such “sliding scale” test only in the context of a specific jurisdiction analysis.

Plaintiff Heidle, a New York resident, filed a diversity personal injury action in federal court in New York against Prospect Reef Resort, a company located in the British Virgin Islands. Prospect Reef moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court granted Prospect Reef’s motion.

As part of her argument, Heidle had argued that the Zippo “sliding scale” test subjected Prospect Reef to personal jurisdiction in New York because Prospect Reef operated a website accessible in New York. While the Zippo test examines the level of interactivity of a company’s website to determine whether the company’s actions thereby provide sufficient contacts with the forum state for the exercise of personal jurisdiction, such an examination was not warranted in this case.

The question before the court was whether it could exercise general personal jurisdiction over the Prospect Reef. The Zippo case provides an analysis of whether specific personal jurisdiction would be proper. The court noted that “the Zippo analysis does not replace the traditional approach for determining the existence of personal jurisdiction over a certain defendant.” Instead of analyzing whether Prospect Reef’s website was “passive,” “active,” or “interactive” as required by Zippo, it applied traditional due process factors to determine that it did not have personal jurisdiction over Prospect Reef.

Heidle v. The Prospect Reef Resort, Ltd.
, 2005 WL 563085 (W.D.N.Y., February 28, 2005).