Note – A Culture Without Consequences? Redefining Purposeful Availment for Wrongful Online Conduct
Jenny L. Grantz
Volume 63, Issue 4, 1135-1166
The Internet often seems like a place without consequences, where we can share our thoughts without much consideration of whether the things we share might cause harm. And even when Internet users knowingly cause harm to others, many escape civil suit because they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in the plaintiff’s chosen forum. Often this is a result of courts’ fear of creating nationwide jurisdiction in cases involving the Internet, and often the reason given for denying specific jurisdiction is
that it was not reasonably foreseeable to the defendant that they might be haled into court in the plaintiff’s chosen forum. But attempts to limit jurisdiction over wrongful online conduct to those forums in which suit was “reasonably foreseeable” have actually made it more difficult for defendants to know when and where they might be held liable, as cases with the same facts can come to opposite results depending on the test applied. This Note explores the current state of personal jurisdiction for intentional, wrongful acts conducted over the Internet, ultimately concluding that courts must create a better test for whether specific jurisdiction exists in these cases. Only when courts focus on the defendant’s knowledge and intent with regard to the plaintiff can they create fair outcomes in individual cases and ensure that Internet users understand when and where they will be subject to suit.