Williams v Advertising Sex LLC

1. Case Name: Williams v. Advertising Sex LLC

2. Case Cite: Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2008 WL 4525015 (N.D.W.Va.), 37 Media L. Rep. 1294

3. Facts of the case: Allison Williams was a former Miss West Virginia (2003) when she discovered by searching online positing linked from numerous websites with her name and the title Miss West Virginia to a sex tape. The person in the video was in fact a women by the same name that was a TV reporter in Virginia which looked nothing like the plaintiff.

4. Procedural Posture: Ms. Williams filed suit against
On March 18, 2005, the plaintiff filed a complaint naming numerous Defendants. She alleged that these defendants defamed her through postings on their individual websites indicating that, as Miss West Virginia, she had participated in a pornographic video that was available for download. The Defendants have never appeared to defend against this claim.

In an August 2007 Order, the Court dismissed another defendant in this case, Joseph Vitagliano, after concluding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over him based solely on his Internet activity. Williams's pending motion for default judgment asserts that the Court has personal jurisdiction over the remaining Defendants based on their Internet activity. Thus, the reasoning in the Court's earlier Order involving defendant Vitagliano is relevant to the analysis here.

5. Holding:
Applying the Zippo Test, Allison Williams, has failed to establish a prima facie case that any of the Defendants purposefully availed themselves of contacts in West Virginia, the Court concludes that it would offend notions of fair play and substantial justice to hail them into court here. Therefore, it DENIES Williams's motion for default judgment and ORDERS that the following defendants are DISMISSED from this case for lack of personal jurisdiction: (1) Defendants Web Traffic, Inc.; (2) Scott Moles; (3) Zorg Enterprises; (4) Chris Buckley; (5) Troy Savege; (6) Eyegasmic Enterprises; (7) Raymond Williams; (8) Advertising Sex, LLC; (9) Nicholas Cain; (10) Cain Web Design Inc.; (11) Charlie Hintz; (12) Mental Shed, LLC; (13) Darren McLaughlin; (14) Performance Marketing Group, Inc.; (15) Scott Rickett; (16) Gen0cide Productions; (17) Tracy Whitewick; (18) Manuel Noten; (19) Craig Brown; (20) Webresultz Pty. Ltd.; (21) FrostyLips, LLC; (22) Henry Rottine; (23) Kenneth M. Boyd; (24) Edith G. Boyd; (25) PalmBeach-Online.com, Inc.; (26) Peter Smallwood; (27) Purple Sky Productions; and (28) Michael Vacietis.

6. Analysis: The District Court followed the Zippo test which is a sliding scale test to determine whether an internet company had minimal contact. First, the court lacks jurisdiction if the defendant just puts the information on the web in a passive nature. Second, the court clearly has personal jurisdiction if the defendant enters into and active contract with customers via the internet. Finally for everything in between a commercial website and a passive website must be evaluated on the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchanged of information that occurs on the website. Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F. Supp. 1119 (W.D. Pa. 1997). So the more interactive the site, the more likely you’ll pass minimum contacts analysis.

JuicyBucks and Whitewick Defendants’ websites are accessible to anyone throughout the United States and the Internet world. This, without more, does not establish an intentional targeting of or focusing on West Virginia. Without more, under Fourth Circuit precedent, such generally accessible websites do not “direct” internet activity into a particular state in a manner that satisfies the requirements for personal jurisdiction. Ms. Williams could not prove that any West Virginian had entered into a contract with the defendants which would have been sufficient to meet “direct” internet activity test.

Ms. Williams also failed to even prove that many of the other defendants even had any contact with West Virginia users and they were dismissed because of lack of minimum contacts. The Court, therefore, concludes that the Defendants lack sufficient minimum contacts with the state to justify being haled into court here.

In April of 2009, Allison Williams successfully recovered from nine defendants not dismissed from her case to the tune of 7.2 million.

7. Blogpost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/09/allison-williams-exmiss-w_n_185305.html?view=print

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