The district court denied Hennessey’s motion to dismiss. The court declined to find “general” jurisdiction, but it did find that Hennessey was subject to “specific” jurisdiction based on the specific transaction between the two parties.
Most states have so-called “long-arm” statutes that provide that persons outside of the state may be sued in the state under certain circumstances. In some states, only specific actions will subject someone from out-of-state to suit, while in others, very minimal contacts will suffice, although even in these states the U.S. Constitution requires that the contacts meet a minimum threshold. The Utah long-arm statute is interpreted as limited only by the due process requirements of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
So next, the court considered the contacts Hennessey had with the state of Utah. The court characterized the level of Hennessey’s Web site activity as falling in the middle of the spectrum between completely passive Web sites and Web sites through which business is conducted and contracts entered into. The court took into consideration the e-mail and telephone communications that culminated in the parties’ contract and ultimately concluded that Hennessey purposely availed himself of the privileges and protections of the state. As a consequence, Hennessey subjected himself to the state’s jurisdiction.
If you’re nervous about being sued out of state based on your Web site and the transactions that it generates, you better schedule an appointment with your friendly local lawyer and have the site and your related operations reviewed with this case in mind.
Stewart v. Hennesey d/b/a Hennessey Motorsports, Inc., 2002 WL 1832840 (D. UT August 2, 2002)