The Internet and Jurisdiction: The Basis Of Personal Jurisdiction

Business meeting on a computer

This post is part of a series of posts entitled A Legal Guide to the Internet. For a comprehensive list of articles contained in this series, click here.

Businesses operating on the Internet face the possibility that such activities may subject them to liability in other jurisdictions. Since the Internet transcends geographical boundaries, one may be subject to a lawsuit in another state and even in another country.

In the United States, the extent to which one is subject to litigation in other forums is determined by the concept of personal jurisdiction. Acourt must have personal jurisdiction over the litigants and the claims at issue in order to enter an enforceable judgment. To determine jurisdiction, courts look to the long-arm statute of the state in which litigation is initiated. Most long-arm statutes are similar, and have requirements that the party over which jurisdiction is sought be

  1. “transacting business” within the state
  2. “committing a tortious act” within the state
  3. “committing a tortious act” outside the state that causes injury within the state

If the long-arm statute is met, the court then must determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction would be consistent with the constitutional requirements of due process. Due process may be satisfied if defendant’s contacts with the state are sufficient to give rise to general jurisdiction. If there is no general jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction exists if

  1. defendant “purposefully availed” himself/herself of the privilege of acting in the forum state
  2. the cause of action arose from the defendant’s activities in the forum state
  3. defendant had sufficient “minimum contacts” with the forum state to make the exercise of jurisdiction “reasonable,” i.e., in conformance with notions of “fair play and substantial justice.” See, World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1979).
This and the following posts have been copied or adopted from A Legal Guide To The INTERNET – Sixth Edition, published through a collaborative effort by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development and Merchant & Gould.