Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff‘s inscribed copy of a book was stolen. The out-of-state Defendants bought the stolen copy from a seller in Georgia and sold it to a customer not in Nebraska. Plaintiff alleged Defendants had violated her privacy rights by using the inscription in the stolen copy to advertise on Defendants‘ website. The Douglas County District Court, Nebraska, sustained Defendants‘ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff appealed
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Personal jurisdiction over a party is proper if the party engaged in conduct purposely directed at the forum state.
The newspapers must, through the Internet postings, manifest an intent to target and focus on Virginia readers.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff was the executive secretary of the Nebraska presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Richard Yates gave Abdouch a copy of his book, Revolutionary Road, in 1963 with the inscription: “For Helen Abdouch–with admiration and best wishes. Dick Yates. 8/19/63.” The book was eventually stolen. Defendant Lopez, through his company, KLB, purchased the book in 2009 from a seller in Georgia. Defendants advertised the Yates book, sold it, and designated as “SOLD,” with a photo of the inscription on the website for more than three years after the book was sold. Defendants had not attended any book fairs in Nebraska. Only two of approximately 1,000 individuals on KLB’s active mailing list lived in Nebraska. Defendant KLB was not registered to do business in Nebraska and did not own or lease any real estate in Nebraska. Defendant KLB did not advertise in any Nebraska publications and had sold less than $615 in books to Nebraska residents from 2009–2011. During that time, Defendant KLB’s total sales were $3.9 million. Plaintiff discovered that Defendants posted the photo of the inscription on the website and sued Defendants in Nebraska for invasion of privacy. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit based on a lack of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska.
Did the trial court err in its decision to grant defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction?
Personal jurisdiction over a party is proper if the party engaged in conduct purposely directed at the forum state. There are two tests that are applicable to this case. The first is the sliding-scale test regarding the operation of a website based on the level of interactivity. If the website involves entering into contracts and the knowing and repeated transmission of computer files over the internet, personal jurisdiction is proper. If the website simply posts information, the website cannot be the basis for personal jurisdiction. If the website falls in between these two categories of interactivity, the level of the interactivity and the nature of the website must be examined. Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com., Inc., 952 F. Supp. 1119 (W.D.Pa. 1997). The second test looks to the effects of the alleged tortious conduct. If the defendant’s acts were intentional, uniquely or expressly aimed at the forum state, and caused harm in the forum state, personal jurisdiction is proper. Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). This test examines whether the defendant knew and intended the consequences of its actions to be felt in the forum state. Here, neither tests were satisfied. Under the first test, Defendants‘ website was interactive and allowed customers to browse and purchase books. However, the level of interaction with Nebraska was minimal, and no evidence was presented that showed that the website was directed toward Nebraska. Under the second test, there was no evidence that Defendants directed the advertisement at Nebraska. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.