Anne McCafferty

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In cases involving international defendants, a variety of bases have been deemed appropriate for a U.S. court to assert personal jurisdiction, including nationality, domicile, “purposeful availment,” and a number of federal statutes. With the explosion of the Internet and the resulting expansion of international business transactions via the Web, courts have struggled to adapt traditional modes of adjudication consistent with established common, statutory and international law. Internet transactions—now known as e-commerce—involve the “practice of buying and selling goods and services through online consumer services on the Internet.” In a sphere of commerce apparently limitless in its reach, this article explores the modern abyss of personal jurisdiction in e-commerce disputes. An analysis leads to the following proposal: the U.S. should adopt a federal long-arm statute that includes an e-commerce provision, allowing courts to effectively and systematically evaluate the propriety of personal jurisdiction in Internet commerce disputes. The new statute would apply in international cases between the U.S. and its contracting partner states to bolster the effectiveness of the long-arm statute provisions on personal jurisdiction in e-commerce. To reach this conclusion, an analysis of modern personal jurisdiction is necessary. Section II of this article provides a history of personal jurisdiction in contract cases within the U.S. and outside its boundaries, including traditional methods for resolving disputes and the status of current state long-arm statutes. Section II also addresses issues of cyberspace, including common forms of Internet contracting and the resulting discord arising out of a lack of uniform treatment among e-commerce disputes. Finally, this section takes into account previously published scholarly opinions on the subject of e-commerce and personal jurisdiction. In examining these various proposals for a remodeled system, the ultimate conclusion reached is that acceptance of a newly formulated federal long-arm statute and its further application to e-commerce disputes provides the most effective way to resolve this highly complicated problem. Therefore, Section III offers an argument for the adoption of a federal long-arm statute, providing a model statute, explaining its terminology, and showing its international significance.

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