Jurisdiction in the Facebook Era

Jurisdiction in the Facebook Era Guido Vrola - Fotolia

What cases can be used as precedent when social media hasn’t been around long enough to fill a body of case law on every issue? California’s Supreme Court recently answered that question when deciding a jurisdictional issue, according to Kirk Jenkins in a post on the Sedgwick’s The Appellate Strategist blog.

The case in point is Burdick v. Superior Court (Sanderson), which Jenkins describes as a defamation claim case brought by California residents against a competitor resulting from a Facebook post. The court recently ordered the case to be reviewed and sent back to the Fourth Appellate District. The order is “significant as a potential signal of issues likely to reach the Court in the next year or two,” Jenkins writes.

To figure out jurisdiction, the court relied on Walden v. Fiore, the facts of which do not deal with social media, Jenkins says. In Walden, the court used a “minimum contact” analysis to hold that, on the facts of that case, there was no jurisdiction. Though Walden does not mention social media, according to Jenkins, there is one footnote that speaks to Burdick. In it, the court states that “this case does not present the very different questions whether and how a defendant’s virtual ‘presence’ and conduct translate into ‘contacts’ with a particular State. … We leave questions about virtual contacts for another day.”

It seems that day has come. The California Supreme Court is still relying on Walden, even though it explicitly states the issues are different. The order “shouldn’t be read to indicate that the Court has already decided that Walden necessarily means that there can never be jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant in an internet tort case,” Jenkins writes. “But it does show that the Court views Walden as a useful framework for addressing those issues.”

Attorney Marlisse Silver Sweeney is a freelance writer based in Vancouver. MarlisseSilverSweeney@gmail.com. Twitter: @MarlisseSS. LTN: @lawtechnews.