Summary prepared by Devashish Bharuka
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Plaintiff Bailey is a resident of the state of Tennessee. He is one of four shareholders in Phoenix Corporation which is engaged in the business of aircraft conversions. Defendant Turbine Designs, Inc. ("TDI"), a Florida corporation, is engaged in the business of building, designing, and developing engine applications for various types of aircrafts. TDI is a competitor of Phoenix in the conversion of Beechcraft King Air aircraft. Both Phoenix and TDI hold Supplemental Type Certificates ("STCs") from the Federal Aviation Administration certifying them to install a certain type of engine known as Beechcraft King Air places. In order to advertise its services, TDI developed an Internet web page located at www.turbinedesign.com., which it describes the turbine installation kits and aircraft it builds for sale to its customers. The web site also contains information concerning technical problems associated with the Phoenix STC and the criminal history of Bailey. Phoenix is referred to at the site as a group of "con artists".
Plaintiff has brought this action against defendants for libel, slander, tortious interference with contractual relations, conspiracy, interference with prospective business advantage, and invasion of privacy. Defendant sought to dismiss the action on jurisdictional grounds.
The jurisdictional limits under the Tennessee long-arm statute has been interpreted as being identical to those imposed by the Due Process Clause. The state long-arm statutes and Due Process Clause, therefore, require that Court need only determine whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction violates constitutional due process.
Defendants alleged that personal jurisdiction is lacking in this case because all of the work for TDI's STC and its preparation of the application therefor took place in Florida. Furthermore, TDI did not perform services required to complete the STC in, maintain an office in, or regularly solicit business in, Tennessee. Likewise, there was no evidence to suggest that the defendant conducted any business activities which would provide a connection with Tennessee such as to establish jurisdiction.
Plaintiff asserted that the alleged defamatory attacks from which this lawsuit arose were published on the Internet and that the acts were intended to cause injury within the forum state. The Court found that TDI's website is wholly passive. The evidence revealed that the allegedly defamatory statements were merely posted on the website to be viewed by whoever cared to do so. There was no effort made to reach out to Tennessee residents any more than to persons residing elsewhere. Accordingly, the Court found that the plaintiff has failed to show that defendant purposefully availed themselves of the benefits of the state of Tennessee. Moreever, the mere fact that the website contained defamatory information concerning the plaintiff did not, absent some supporting evidence, mean that the defendant possessed the intent to target residents of the forum state.
Held, there is no personal jurisdiction.