Last year, we wrote about the Seventh Circuit’s interpretation of the emerging issue of personal jurisdiction in the context of internet activity. Courts understandably have been wary of subjecting businesses to broad jurisdiction in all 50 states based solely on an internet presence. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals continued this trend with its decision last week in Carlson v. Fidelity Motor Group, LLC, No. 2014AP695 (Jan. 14, 2015), a decision written by Judge Gundrum.
Eric Carlson, a Wisconsin resident, saw an advertisement for a used BMW from Fidelity Motor Group on the cars.com website, called Fidelity and discussed the car briefly, and Fidelity followed up with another call. The same day, Carlson traveled to the Fidelity dealership in Illinois and bought the car. He later sued Fidelity, claiming the car sustained damage due to Fidelity’s failure to change the car’s oil as he and his wife had requested.
Carlson filed his suit in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. He submitted screenshots of Fidelity’s website and its advertisements on 14 other websites (including cars.com), along with evidence of the phone calls. For its part, Fidelity averred undisputed facts as to its lack of any other business in or contacts with Wisconsin, “except to the extent that [Fidelity’s] website is accessible to Wisconsin residents.” The circuit court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeals, District II, affirmed. It found that it was “clear” that due process was not satisfied under the analysis for minimum contacts and thus skipped any consideration of Wisconsin’s long-arm statute (Wis. Stat. § 801.05).