Written by attorney Andrew Daniel Myers

How Do You Sue A Distant Internet Company

What do you do if you have a serious problem with a company whose product or service you paid for through the internet? It is extremely inconvenient if not next to impossible to go and file a legal action in the jurisdiction where that provider is based. However, the courts in your home state may or may not have jurisdiction to settle the matter.

As a first step always at least try to settle the claim with the distant company by calling or writing. Believe me, I know this is much simpler to say than to do, but I also know the challenges of any law suit, especially where jurisdiction is an issue. So, make at least some serious effort to explore the possibility that there was a mistake that can be corrected. If, after a discussion, it is determined that there truly is a difference for which you believe litigation is required, you need to initiate a complaint only in a court with personal jurisdiction over the distant company. This would be the proper court in the state of incorporation [or in which LLC papers were filed], any state in which they have a resident agent, any state in which they maintain a business office, or any state in which they have 'minimum contacts'.

‘Minimum contacts’ is a jurisdictional concept on which literally volumes have been written. Essentially, this means that there is intentional contact by the company or any civil defendant in a particular jurisdiction such that it is "fair" in a legal sense, and in accordance with the U.S. Constitution for a court to exercise personal jurisdiction. Merely having a website available in all 50 states generally does not rise to minimum contacts. Specific intentional contacts in a jurisdiction such as local ads, direct mailings and the like will tend to allow a court to assert personal jurisdiction. If they sent a sales person to you or they signed a contract in your jurisdiction, you have them, but these are rarely the facts in an internet case. So, you will need to do some research to determine what contact the company has in your state, otherwise you will need to initiate the law suit in their jurisdiction.

Courts tend to be very conservative in granting personal jurisdiction over distant companies unless the facts are clear and specific. The reason for this is that jurisdiction is always an issue, and if a court grants personal jurisdiction in a case that goes all the way to a final judgment and order, an appeals court can set that final order aside if the finding of personal jurisdiction was erroneous.

Additional resources provided by the author

This guide is intended for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.

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