IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COIJNTY, PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL DIVISION - LAW YALE F. EDEIKEN, Plaintiff, v. SCOTT BRADBURY, a/k/a "DOC TAVISH" a/k/a "doc email@example.com" a/k/a "firstname.lastname@example.org". Defendant. NO. 1999-C-2786 Assigned Judge: Reibman, J. ORDER AND NOW, this 12th day of June, 2001, upon consideration of Defendant's Petition for Relief from Judgment, filed on September 22, 2000, Plaintiff s response thereto, and argument thereon on February 7, 2001. IT IS ORDERED said petition is GRANTED, and the case is DISMISSED. 1/ 1/ Yale F. Edeiken ("Plaintiff') lives in Pennsylvania and Scott Bradbury ("Defendant") lives in Texas. Through each man"s varied exploration of Internet sites, they began to exchange views electronically. Over time, these communications allegedly escalated to insults and threats, which Plaintiff contends are defamatory, constitute harassment, and invade his privacy. On November 3, 1999, Plaintiff commenced this action by filing of a Writ of Summons. Over the next six months, Plaintiff attempted pre-complaint discovery by filing motions to compel, for sanctions and protective orders, and on July 20, 2000, filed his complaint. Defendant allegedly refused to communicate with Plaintiff and returned mail unopened to sender. After the Complaint was returned, Plaintiff forwarded to Defendant a notice of intention to enter a default judgment. As Defendant did not respond by filing a responsive pleading within the ten-day period required by Pa. R.C.P. 237. 1, a default judgment was filed against him on August, 25. 2000. On September 22, 2000, Defendant entered an appearance in the case when his counsel filed a Petition for Relief from Judgment. Defendant alleges because this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over him, the matter should be stricken and dismissed. When a defendant raises the issue of a court's lack of in personam jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving there is statutory and constitutional support for the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction. Fidelity Leasing, Inc. v. Limestone County B. of Educ., 758 A. 2d 1207, 1210 (Pa. Super. 2000);. McCall v. Formu-3 Intern, Inc., 650 A.2d 903, 904 (Pa. Super. 1994), alloc. denied, 541 Pa. 640, 663 A.2d 692 (1995); Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc. 952 F. Supp. 1119, 1122 (W.D. Pa. 1997). The Judiciary Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. A7 5301 et seq. allows Pennsylvania courts to exercise one of two types of personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants: (1) specific jurisdiction (under 42 Pa. C.S.A. A7 5322), based upon the specific acts of the defendant which gave rise to the cause of action, and (2) general personal jurisdiction (under 42 Pa. C.S.A. A7 5301), based upon a defendant's general activity within the state. McCall, 650 A.2d at 904. Regardless of which type of personal Jurisdiction is asserted, the propriety of such an exercise must be tested against both the Pennsylvania long arm statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. A7 5322, and the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution- Fidelity Leasing, Inc.758 A.1d at 1211, citing, Hall-Woolford Tank Co., Inc. v. R.F. Kilns Inc., 698 A.2d 80, 82-83 (Pa. Super. 1997). The issue of in personam jurisdiction in both state and federal courts is decided under the same constitutional due process standards. See, e.g., Filipovich v. J.T. Imports, Inc., 637 A.2d 314 (Pa. Super. 1994). The long arm statute permits Pennsylvania courts to "exercise jurisdiction over nonresident defendants 'to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States' and jurisdiction may be based 'on the most minimum contact with this Commonwealth allowed under the Constitution of the United States."' General Motors Acceptance Corp. v. Keller, 737 A.2d 279, 281 (Pa. Super. 1999). In this case, Defendant's publication of the alleged defamatory material through Internet e-mail, allowing access and publication within the State of Pennsylvania and among Pennsylvania residents, is sufficient to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction under the "tort" prong of Pennsylvania's long arm statute. See, Lofton v. Turbine Design, Inc. 100 F.Supp.2d 404,409 (N.D. Miss. 2000). Furthermore, Defendant concedes his actions fall under section 5322 (a)(4) of the long arm statute, Defendant" s Memorandum of Law, p. 4, which provides: (a) General rule.-A tribunal of this Commonwealth may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person ... who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action or other matter arising from such person: * * * (4) Causing harm or tortious injury in this Commonwealth by an act or omission outside this Commonwealth. * * * 42 Pa. C.S.A. 5322(a)(4). Accordingly, jurisdiction in this case is authorized by statute, and the sole issue becomes whether due process requirements, pursuant to the fourteenth amendment are satisfied. Pennsylvania courts have expressly adopted the due process standard advocated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Burger King Corporation v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462,105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L. Ed.2d 528 (1985). Kubik v. Letteri, 532 Pa. 10, 17, 614 A.2d 1110, 1114 (1992). In order for the state to assert specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the following three conditions must be met: (1) the defendant must have sufficient "minimum contacts"' with the forum state; (2) the claim asserted against the defendant must arise out of those contacts; and, (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must be reasonable. Oasis Corp. v. Judd, 2001 WL 173734, *6 (S.D. Ohio 2001), citing, Reynolds v. International Amateur Athletic Fed 23 F.3d 1110, 1116 (6th Cir. 1994), cert, denied. 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 423, 130 L.Ed.2d 338 (1994); Zippo Mfg. Co., 952 F.Supp. at 1122-23. The determination of whether sufficient contacts exist for the assertion of in personam jurisdiction is based on a finding that the "defendant's conduct and [his] connection with the forum state are such that lie should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." McCall., 650 A.2d at 905, citing Kubik, 532 Pa. at 17, 614 A.2d at 1114. Critical to the analysis of whether a defendant should reasonably anticipate being haled into court in the forum state is the determination that the defendant purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum and purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protection of its laws. Id., citing, Kubik, 532 Pa. at 18, 614 A.2d at 1114. Whether or not a party's communications over the Internet can be a basis for personal jurisdiction comprises a new but "burgeoning" area of the law. Lofton, 100 F.Supp. at 410. However, the vast majority of such "Internet jurisdiction" cases address the jurisdictional question in the context of commercial web sites. Oasis Corp., 2001 WL 173734 at *12, n.9 (emphasis in original). See g1so, Zippo Mfg. Co., supra. (the likelihood that personal jurisdiction can be constitutionally exercised is directly proportionate to the nature and quality of commercial activity that an entity conducts over the Internet). Where, however the question is non-commercial in nature, such guidelines provide little to supplement the traditional framework for considering questions of personal jurisdiction.. Id. See Mink v. AAAA Dev. LLC, 190 F.3d 333 (5th Cir. 1999). Accordingly, the issues in the instant tort case will be considered in light of the traditional framework as set forth in Burger King, supra, and its progeny. Here, Defendant's affidavit that states he has never been to Pennsylvania; he has not and does not currently own any personal property, real estate, vehicles or other property in the state; he bas never done business, bought, sold, advertised or traded anything in the state; and he has never sued anyone or availed himself of the Pennsylvania court system, has not been challenged. In fact. Defendant's only contact with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appears to be his Internet "relationship" with Plaintiff solely through email communications. See Lofton-supra. Mere presence on the World Wide Web does not establish minimum contacts necessary to subject a non-resident defendant to personal jurisdiction. S. Morantz, Inc. v. Hang & Shine Ultrasonics, Inc., 79 F.Supp.2d 537, 539 (E.D. Pa. 1999). Further, the content of Defendant's allegedly defamatory and harassing e-mail communications was directed to Plaintiff himself, not to Plaintiff s location. In fact, Plaintiff indicates Defendant was unaware of Plaintiffs location for some time (Complaint, para. 67) ("Defendant published a statement that he found the Plaintiff"). Such eventual contact with Pennsylvania was "fortuitous" or "coincidental" within the meaning of World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). Zippo Mfg. Co., 952 F.Supp., at 1126. In addition, the fact that Defendant could possibly foresee that his e-mails could be viewed and have an effect in Pennsylvania is not, in and of itself, enough to create personal jurisdiction. Reynolds, 23 F.3d at 1119 (use of telephone and mail is a "secondary or ancillary" factor and "cannot alone provide the minimum contacts required by due process"). Plaintiff has not provided evidence that Defendant's e-mail messages were accessed by any other Pennsylvania residents, see Lofton, supra, or that Plaintiff suffered harm in Pennsylvania as a result of such e-mails. See Bochan v. La Fontaine, 68 F.Supp.2d 692, 702 (E.D. Va. 1999); D'Errico v. DeFazio, 763 A.2d 424, 432 (Pa. Super. 2000) (providing elements for tort of defamation). Finally, even Plaintiff's allegation that Defendant forged and forwarded false and defamatory material to a business in Pennsylvania for the purpose of interfering with Plaintiffs business relationship is insufficient to establish the minimum. contacts required. See Hall-Woolford Tank Co., 698 A.2d at 84. BY THE COURT: (signature) EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J.. Having found insuffificient minimum contacts, Plaintiff's Complaint against Defendant is dismissed.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor