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Weber v. Jolly Hotels

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Citation Edit

Weber v. Jolly Hotels, 977 F.Supp. 327 (D.N.J. 1997) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

This case arises out of a tort claim for “slip and fall,” which the defendant claims occurred at one of defendant's hotels in Italy. The defendant, an Italian company, moved for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The court found that the defendant owns and operates hotels only in Italy, although it has some independent subsidiaries which own and operate hotels elsewhere in Europe and in New York. Defendant conducts no business in New Jersey. However, the defendant does have a website, which contains photographs of hotel rooms, a description of hotel facilities, information about the rooms and the defendant's telephone numbers, among other things.

Plaintiff first argued that the court had general jurisdiction because defendant's use of the Internet was the equivalent to directly advertising in New Jersey. The court rejected this argument.

The court analyzed the expanding number of court decisions relating to jurisdiction arising out of online conduct. It noted that the defendant does not actively conduct business on the Internet — in such cases personal jurisdiction is generally found. The court also found that this was not a case where the plaintiff exchanged information with the defendant's computer — generally through e-mail. In such cases, jurisdiction is determined by examining the level of interactivity and the commercial nature of the exchanges on the website.

Instead, the court felt that this case involved a purely passive website, being merely an advertisement for defendant's business. In these cases, courts have held that jurisdiction should be rejected because it would impose worldwide, personal jurisdiction over anyone who establishes a website.

The court indicated that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals had consistently held that advertising in national publications does not constitute continuous and substantial contact with the forum state. Similarly, advertising on the Internet is not tantamount to directing at or purposely availing oneself of the particular forum and, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant would violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

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