Rocke v. Pebble Beach Co., CIV.A. 12-3372, 2014 WL 1725366 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 29, 2014)

On a vacation to California with her husband, Mrs. Rocke decided to get a massage at The Spa at Pebble Beach. After putting on the spa slippers supplied by the spa, Mrs. Rocke tripped, falling and hitting her head. When she returned to her home state of Pennsylvania, the Rockes brought suit against The Spa in district court.

In alleging jurisdiction, the Rockes claimed that the defendant had sent direct mailings and email solicitations to Pennsylvania citizens and had also advertised in national golf magazines and solicited the business of Pennsylvanians through its website.

The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the Third Circuit affirmed, likewise finding no general or specific jurisdiction, but nevertheless remanded, holding that the plaintiffs were entitled to jurisdictional discovery.

Following discovery, the plaintiffs argued a new basis for jurisdiction—the defendant’s practice of purchasing keyword advertisements from Google. The plaintiffs contended that “[t]he intent behind the advertising campaign [was] to attract customers from around the world, including Pennsylvania, to Pebble Beach Resorts.”

The court rejected the argument, reasoning that “[b]y purchasing AdWords, Pebble Beach (like many other businesses utilizing the same marketing technique) seeks to make itself more visible to anyone in the world who searches Goggle using certain keywords or search terms.” The court found that plaintiffs failed to produce any evidence that the defendant purchased Pennsylvania-specific AdWords in order to solicit Pennsylvania business” and held that “[t]he mere fact that Pennsylvania residents are potentially swept up in the broad ocean of people to whom Pebble Beach is advertising through AdWords is not even direct a contact, much less continuous and systematic one.”

While the decision leaves open the possibility that keywords targeted to Pennsylvanians might have yielded a different result, the court made clear that simply purchasing keyword advertisements is insufficient to subject a defendant to nationwide jurisdiction.