Woodhurst v. Manny’s Inc., 2013 WL 1452929 (Iowa App. April 10, 2013)
Plaintiffs alleged that defendant – a bar in Illinois just a few miles from the Iowa border – was liable for serving alcohol to one of its patrons who crossed over to Iowa and shot one of the plaintiffs. The Iowa court in which the suit was pending dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff sought review of the dismissal. On appeal, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed.
The court found there was no evidence that defendant “purposefully directed” its advertisements via its Facebook and MySpace pages to Iowa residents. So the case establishes that having a social media presence – even an interactive one like a Facebook page – does not automatically mean that a company will be subject to suit everywhere the page is available. Courts apparently require something more for activity to be purposefully directed.
MacDermid, Inc. v. Deiter, No. 11-5388 (2d Cir. December 26, 2012)
The Second Circuit reversed a District Court that held it could not exercise personal jurisdiction over a Canadian defendant accused of accessing email servers located in Connecticut.
Defendant lived and worked in Canada for a U.S.-based company having its principal place of business in Connecticut. She knew her company’s email servers were located in Connecticut.
When she learned that she was about to be terminated from her position, she forwarded confidential company data from her work email account to her personal account.
The former employer sued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. That court dismissed the case, holding that the relevant Connecticut state statute (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-59b(a)) did not authorize the exercise of personal jurisdiction. The lower court found that although the statute authorized personal jurisdiction over one who “uses a computer” in the state, defendant’s alleged computer use took place exclusively in Canada.
Plaintiff-employer sought review with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, the court reversed, holding that the state statute authorized the exercise of personal jurisdiction, and that such exercise comported with due process.
The court found it was “not material” that defendant was outside Connecticut when she accessed her employer’s servers. It held that the statute required only that the computer or network, not the user, be located in the state.
On the due process issue, the court found that defendant had minimum contacts with Connecticut, as she knew the servers were located there. The court also found that she purposefully directed her alleged tortious activity there. After balancing other relevant factors (e.g., location of witnesses, burden on the defendant, Connecticut’s interests in seeing its laws enforced), the court found the exercise of personal jurisdiction to be reasonable.
Clint Pharmaceuticals v. Northfield Urgent Care, LLC, 2012 WL 3792546 (Minn. App., September 4, 2012)
Appellant, a healthcare clinic organized as an LLC in Minnesota, got sued in Tennessee. It never showed up to defend itself, so the Tennessee court entered a default judgment against it. When the plaintiff sought to have the Tennessee judgment recognized in Minnesota, the clinic challenged the underlying lawsuit, claiming that the court in Tennessee did not have personal jurisdiction over the clinic, as it had not been properly served with the civil “warrant”.
In this case, the court found that the clinic had been properly served because the papers were opened by the wife of the clinic’s owner. The court found she was “intertwined” with the clinic, and should have known what to do with the papers, based in part on the fact that she was “prominently displayed” on the clinic’s website and interacted with commenters on the clinic’s Facebook page.
Photo courtesy Flickr user jenny downing under this Creative Commons license.
Case dismissed because federal court in California did not have personal jurisdiction over Illinois resident.
Facebook, Inc. v. Teachbook.com, LLC, 2011 WL 1672464 (N.D.Cal. May 3, 2011)
Last year Facebook made us wonder if it had gone off its meds when it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Illinois-based Teachbook.com. More than one commentator thought Facebook was being overzealous in its efforts to claim exclusivity in the term “book” for social networking services.
However one contenances the action, the court has shut the cover on the first chapter. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (where Facebook is located) held that it lacked personal jursidction over the Illinois defendant. So it dismissed the case.
Applying the well-known “effects test” from Calder v. Jones, the court found that Teachbook had not expressly aimed its conduct into California:
Teachbook does not register users in California. Thus, even if Teachbook intended to compete with a California company, it intended to compete for users who were not in California. The fact that an essentially passive Internet advertisement may be accessible in the plaintiff’s home state without “something more” is not enough to support personal jurisdiction in a trademark infringement suit brought in the plaintiff’s home state.
So if the fight continues, it won’t take place in Facebook’s back yard.