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Maryland court jurisdiction extending beyond state lines?

Can you be sued in Maryland?

Recent court decisions on website contacts with Maryland seem to indicate that having a website alone is not enough.  Music Maker Holdings, LLC v. Sarro, United States District Court (MD) 2010.  

Even without a physical location, or specific work site in the State of Maryland, your business may be subject to the jurisdiction of Maryland courts.  If your company advertises that it does business throughout the United States or identifies clients with locations in Maryland (even if you worked for the client as a subcontractor to a larger company), you may find yourself subject to Maryland jurisdiction.  If there is a hint of affiliation with Maryland, your company may find itself subject to its jurisdiction.  “A court may exercise personal jurisdiction as to any cause of action over a person domiciled in, served with process in, organized under the laws of, or who maintains his principal place of business in the State.” Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Annotated Code, § 6-102(a).

Maryland’s long arm statute expands jurisdiction over out-of-state persons or businesses that have sufficient contact with Maryland.  Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Maryland Annotated Code, § 6-103.  “In determining whether specific personal jurisdiction exists, a court considers: (1) the extent to which the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the State; (2) whether the plaintiffs' claims arise out of those activities directed at the State; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally reasonable.”  MaryCLE, LLC v. First Choice Internet, Inc., 166 Md. App. 481 (2006)

Maryland jurisdiction extends over a party, if the party transacts any business or performs any character of work or service in Maryland; contracts to supply goods, food, services, or manufactured products in Maryland; caused tortious injury in Maryland by an act or omission in Maryland; regularly does or solicits business; engages in any other persistent course of conduct in Maryland or derives substantial revenue from goods, food, services, or manufactured products used or consumed in Maryland, has an interest in, uses, or possesses real property in Maryland; or contracts to insure or act as surety for, or on, any person, property, risk, contract, obligation, or agreement located, executed, or to be performed within Maryland.  Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Maryland Annotated Code, § 6-103(b).  Under any of the above circumstances, it can be concluded that the party availed itself the privilege of conducting activities in Maryland and had sufficient contact with Maryland to evoke jurisdiction.

   You may find yourself as an individual personally subject to Maryland jurisdiction if you are an owner, member, principle, manager, employed, or otherwise affiliated to a company that is subject to Maryland jurisdiction.  If you commit a tort outside the State of Maryland, you could be subject to Maryland jurisdiction if you are affiliated with a company that is subject to Maryland jurisdiction. 

Md. Code Ann. Courts & Jud. Proc., §6-103(b)(4) provides that even where tortious injury has occurred outside of the State, individuals are personally liable and subject to Maryland jurisdiction, if they carry on regular business in Maryland:

(b) A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who directly or by an agent:

(4) Causes tortious injury in the State or outside of the State by an act or omission outside the State if he regularly does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent course of conduct in the State or derives substantial revenue from goods, food, services, or manufactured products used or consumed in the State;

Because each case is evaluated on its individual facts by courts, the resulting ‘case-by-case’ analysis leaves every business with the most minimal contact with Maryland, potentially subject to the jurisdiction of its courts.

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