Internet Advertising Didn't Subject Defendants To Personal Jurisdiction In North Carolina

Burgess v. Vitola, 2008 NCBC 4 (N.C. Super. Ct. Feb. 26, 2008)(Diaz)

Plaintiff sued the defendants, thirty out-of-state dentists and lawyers, charging that they had forced advertisements for their services onto his computer. He alleged that this had been accomplished by a “bug, worm, or virus.” 

Plaintiff based jurisdiction on N.C.G.S. §1-75.4(4)(a), which allows for the assertion of jurisdiction when “solicitation or services activities were carried on within this State or by or on behalf of the defendant.”

The Court didn't agree and granted the Motion to Dismiss, holding “it makes absolutely no sense that Moving Defendants, all of whom operate law or dental practices in states far removed from North Carolina, would have any interest in soliciting [plaintiff], or any other North Carolina resident.” The defendants, via affidavits, had denied such interest, although many of them did have "passive" Internet websites.

The Court relied on the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision in Havey v. Valentine, 172 N.C. App. 812, 616 S.E.2d 642 (2005), in which the appellate court held that “a person who simply places information on the Internet does not subject himself to jurisdiction in each State into which the electronic signal is transmitted and received.”

This case wasn't, by the way, this plaintiff’s first foray before the Business Court. He made similar allegations of "computer trespass” in Burgess v. American Express Company, Inc., 2007 NCBC 15 (N.C. Super. May 21, 2007)(Diaz). The Court held there that there is a cause of action for subjecting a user's computer to unauthorized advertisements, under a theory of trespass to chattels.
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