Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Eileen Weber v. Jolly Hotels, et al.
977 F. Supp. 327 (D.N.J. Sept. 12, 1997)
Plaintiff, a resident of New Jersey, sustained personal injuries at one of defendant's hotels in Italy. She booked her stay through a tour operator which was an independent contractor of defendant. Defendant did not have offices in New Jersey, nor did it conduct any business there. It did, however, "provide 'photographs of hotel rooms, descriptions of hotel facilities, information about numbers of rooms and telephone numbers'" on a website accessible to New Jersey residents. The court concluded that this contact with New Jersey was insufficient to permit the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
Said the court: "Defendant placed information about its hotels on the Internet as an advertisement, not as a means of conducting business. ... [T]he court finds that exercising jurisdiction over a defendant who merely advertises its services or product on the Internet would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." The court reached this conclusion notwithstanding the fact that defendant's Internet site contained telephone numbers one could use to book hotel rooms. In reaching its result, the Court relied on Smith v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 968 F. Supp. 1356 (W.D. Ark. 1997) and Hearst Corp. v. Goldberger, 1997 WL 97097 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 1997).
It should be noted that plaintiff did not utilize defendant's website in booking her stay at the hotel. Thus, the court's analysis was that this Internet contact was insufficient to sustain general personal jurisdiction over the defendant (as opposed to specific personal jurisdiction).