Just a quick note to report that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed the case against Virgin Australia without prejudice (meaning it can be brought in another court).
The problem with the case- jurisdiction. In order for a court to be able to impose a judgment against a party (a person or company), it must have personal jurisdiction over that entity. It can get this easily if the person is based in that courts area of jurisdiction (called general jurisdiction). It can also get this if the person conducts business or commits a tort in the jurisdiction, called “minimum contacts” (or if they consent).
In this case, Virgin Australia didn’t have either, so the court decided that it didn’t have authority over the company.
It should be noted that Virgin USA and Virgin Australia are completely separate entities, having no connections, according to the footnotes in the case. Virgin USA was also sued, but they were dropped from the suit and the only defendant left was Virgin Australia.
As the internet and the Web 2.0 sharing movement takes off, jurisdiction is going to be an important issue. Typically, if someone hurts you, it is physical, and in person. They have to be in your area (and thus in your jurisdiction) to hurt you. But this case is a perfect example of how someone in Texas was hurt by someone in Australia. Now the person who was injured will probably have to go to Australia to bring her case. And a girl in Texas is now forced to hire counsel in Australia, and possibly go to Australia to get relief for her injury.
If you are interested, the case is: Chang v. Virgin Mobile USA, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3051 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 16, 2009)