So far, our discussion on specific personal jurisdiction has focused on interstate activity that occurs through more physical means such as vehicular travel or posting an article in a magazine. Now, we turn to how the courts have addressed the issue of increasingly easier means of interstate activity, the internet.

Burdick v. Superior Court

233 Cal. App 4th 8 (2015).

Burdick is the defendant, located in Illinois. He does consultation work for a company (Nerium) who’s primary place of business is in Texas.

John Sanderson and George Taylor are plaintiffs. They reside in California.

The forum state was California, Burdick filed motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and the trial court denied the motion. Burdick appealed.


Whether Burdick’s conduct created a substantial connection between Burdick and California.


“The plaintiff must show that the defendant knew that the plaintiff would suffer the brunt of the harm caused by the tortious conduct in the forum, and point to specific activity indicating that the defendant expressly aimed its tortious conduct at the forum.” (emphasis added).


There was no evidence produced that Burdick expressly aimed his conduct at California. Therefore, there is no specific personal jurisdiction.


Burdick, defendant, is a consultant for a company that is based in Texas. This company deals primarily with skin related products. A couple of scientists from California began to question the safety of the products and posted some of their concerns on a blog. Burdick responded by posting (while in Illinois) some defamatory content on his Facebook page that these individuals would soon be exposed for their corrupt lives. Consequently, the plaintiffs filed suit.

The trial court found that there was sufficient SPJ because the defendants effects had towards the California residents.


The courts begin by providing a summary of the SPJ cases we have discussed so far including Calder (Florida to California libel suit) and Walden (harm felt in Nevada, but tort committed in Georgia). From these cases we learned that the conduct of the defendant must develop a relationship with the forum, not just a resident of the forum. Thus, evidence needs to be provided that the defendant targeted the post to reach several California readers. Because the defendant had posted in Illinois, had little to no California “friends” and had little to no California audience, he did not expressly aim his conduct at California. Therefore, there is no SPJ.


We learn about the expressly aim test. What I am gathering from all our discussions is that we have developed an overarching global rule and then keep adding several individual rules and tests to accommodate for technological changes.

Additional Notes

Being aware of effects in the forum state is not good enough, there must be some conduct of the defendant expressly directed towards the forum state.

Even though the conduct can be seen everywhere, none of the content was targeted specifically to California.

We also have the Zippo test, where there is a sliding scale. For instance, active websites (selling products) will likely have SPJ wherever they send their products. On the other hand, passive websites (viewing purposes only) will not usually have SPJ.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

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