Personal Jurisdiction. Long-Arm Statute. Second Circuit confirms that the Connecticut long-arm statute operates to permit suit against a person accessing a computer network from outside the state provided that the network server is located within the state.
Plaintiff MacDermid Chemicals ("MacDermid"), a Connecticut company, decided to terminate the employment of Defendant Jackie Deiter, who worked and lived in Canada. Having become aware of her impending termination, Deiter forwarded allegedly confidential and proprietary MacDermid data from her MacDermid email account to her personal email account. MacDermid sued Dieter in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut for unauthorized access of a computer system and misappropriation of trade secrets.
The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction in view of the fact that Deiter had not used a Connecticut computer or computer network but had sent an email from her work computer in Canada to her personal computer in Canada. However, on appeal, the Second Circuit overruled the district court's decision, finding that Connecticut's long-arm statute did reach Dieter because MacDermid's computer server was located in Connecticut.
The court concluded that it was not material that Deiter was outside of Connecticut when she acted. Connecticut’s long-arm statute allows the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over any non-resident individual who commits a tortious act outside the state causing injury to person or property within the state, including in circumstances where that individual uses a computer as defined by statute.
The court found that a computer server qualified as a "computer" under the definition given in Connecticut's long-arm statute. The court therefore concluded that Deiter had caused a computer to perform computer operations by accessing MacDermid's Connecticut server in order to obtain the data sent in her email.
The court went on to consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction over Dieter accorded with requirements of due process and reasonableness. The court recognized that a nonresident defendant must be found to have purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum in circumstances where the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities. In this case, Dieter knew that the email servers she used and the confidential files she misappropriated were both located in Connecticut. The court therefore concluded that Dieter purposefully availed herself of the privilege of conducting computer activities within Connecticut and she directed her allegedly tortious conduct towards MacDermid, a Connecticut corporation. The court also decided that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Dieter was reasonable noting that "efficiency and social policies against computer-based theft are generally best served by adjudication in the state from which computer files have been misappropriated.