Plaintiff brought a tort action against Defendants in federal district court in Illinois, seeking damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, arising out of an article published on a website and in a newspaper. Jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
For purposes of determining specific jurisdiction, the court looks to the relationship among the defendant, the forum and the litigation; also, in internet cases, the likelihood that jurisdiction can be properly exercised is directly proportional to the nature and quality of Defendant’s commercial interactivity conducted on the internet.
Plaintiff alleged that a published article on steroid use quoted a third party, a registered dietician, as stating, as an example of the dangers of steroid use that she had personally witnessed, that Plaintiff “lost his hip because of anabolic abuse.” The article was published on a website and in a newspaper. The dietician, in a sworn statement, denied making the statement attributed to her in the article. Plaintiff brought a tort action against defendants in federal district court in Illinois, seeking damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Could the federal district court properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendants?
No. Exercising personal jurisdiction in this case would offend notions of fair play and substantial justice.
The federal district court, sitting in diversity, had jurisdiction over a nonresident if a state court had jurisdiction. A state court would have jurisdiction if due process and the state’s long arm statute were satisfied. In this case, the broad long arm statutes meant that the decision hinged on whether due process was satisfied. The court concluded that due process was not satisfied because it lacked general and specific jurisdiction over defendants. General jurisdiction could not be based on Defendants’ maintenance of a website, or any substantial and continuous activities within the state. The court also lacked specific jurisdiction based on Defendants, their relationship to Illinois, and Illinois’ interest in the litigation. Moreover, their website interactivity with residents outside of California was de minimus at most.