Court Holds Trial Court Did Not Have Personal Jurisdiction Over Facebook to Enter Preliminary Injunction
Facebook v. K.G.S.
One of the threshold issues before the Alabama Supreme Court in the case
Facebook v. K.G.S.
was whether the Jefferson Circuit Court had personal jurisdiction over Facebook to enter a preliminary injunction that would require Facebook to deactivate a page concerning a contested adoption. The Plaintiff brought the following claims against Facebook: negligence per se for the alleged violation of certain provisions of the Adoption Code prohibiting the public disclosure of matters concerning adoptions, the tort of outrage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, negligence, and wantonness.
Facebook filed a motion to dismiss for a lack of personal jurisdiction arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. A Facebook employee testified in an affidavit that Facebook is incorporated in Delaware; maintains its principal place of business in Menlo Park, California; provides accessible website and mobile applications for users throughout the world; has user-accounts from individuals throughout all 50 states; and has no offices, property, or employees located in Alabama. Although the trial court denied the motion, it did not indicate whether the jurisdiction it was exercising over Facebook was general or specific. Facebook appealed.
As the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear since
Daimler AG v. Bauman
, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014), a court may assert general personal jurisdiction over a corporate defendant when its “affiliations with the State are ‘so continuous and systemic’ as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum state.” The two paradigm forums where a corporate defendant is considered at home are its (1) place of incorporation and (2) principal place of business. There are also exceptional cases where a corporate defendant’s operations in a State are so substantial as to render a corporate defendant at home. In this case, Facebook submitted undisputed evidence that it is not incorporated in Alabama nor maintains its principal place of business in Alabama. However, the Plaintiff argued that Facebook was subject to general jurisdiction because it was licensed to do business in Alabama. Applying
, which rendered this basis for the assertion of general jurisdiction over a corporate defendant obsolete, the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s argument and the notion that a corporate defendant doing business in a state was sufficient alone to warrant the exercise of general jurisdiction.
The Plaintiff also argued that Facebook’s conduct subjected it to specific jurisdiction in Alabama because it “acted intentionally, knowingly, and expressly in aiming its conduct toward Alabama” when it failed to remove the Facebook page. The Court held, however, that the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Facebook’s conduct had a “substantial connection” to Alabama. The Court emphasized that specific jurisdiction analysis focuses on “the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.” Yet, in arguing that Facebook was subject to specific jurisdiction, the Plaintiff relied exclusively on Facebook’s contacts with her and her attorney’s complaints about the content on a Facebook page and the fact that Facebook knew that she was an Alabama resident. Therefore, because there was also an absence of suit-related conduct creating a “substantial connection” with Alabama, the Court instructed that the trial court dismiss the Plaintiff’s claims against Facebook.