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Farm Livin’ on the Digital Highway

Plaintiffs James and Theresa Arnold leased their house in a rural area of Butler County, near Potwin, Kansas on May 1, 2011. Within a week of moving in, according to their Amended Complaint, they were visited by sheriff's deputies looking for a stolen truck. This visit was the first in a series of repeated visits and calls by law enforcement officers--at all hours of the day and night--looking for runaway children, responding to attempted suicides, or searching for evidence of computer fraud or child pornography. In addition, private individuals had attempted to enter their property, attempted to access their internet, and complained or threatened the Arnolds over email spam originating from the farm.

In the Spring of 2016, the website Fusion published an article entitled "How an Internet Mapping Glitch Turned a Random Kansas Farm into a Digital Hell." The article identified the source of the Arnold's troubles as the defendant, MaxMind, Inc.  MaxMind is a Massachusetts corporation which, acting through its brand GeoIP, supplies intelligence on internet protocol (IP) addresses, a unique signifier for computers or servers active on the internet. MaxMind provides information about the IP addresses of computers to some 5000 customers for the purposes of enforcing digital rights, customization of advertising, and routing internet traffic.

The Arnolds asserted claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, false light publication, and invasion of privacy in their Amended Complaint.  They asserted that MaxMind publishes free, public downloadable databases on its website which falsely linked their residence with millions of IP addresses that were used for illegal, immoral, or embarrassing purposes.

MaxMind filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, asserting various defenses, including lack of jurisdiction.  The United States District Court for the District of Kansas denied dismissal, finding that the Arnolds’ allegations satisfied the requirements of long-arm jurisdiction and due process.  The district court found that given the volume of IP addresses involved, MaxMind could reasonably anticipate being called into court to respond to such a false attribution and that jurisdiction did not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The court further held that Kansas had a strong interest in resolving the dispute between the parties, and provided the most efficient forum for resolving the dispute. Ultimately, the case settled via alternative dispute resolution.

Lexis Advanced subscribers can access the full opinion at:  Arnold v. MaxMind, Inc., 216 F. Supp. 3d 1275, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145977


Author:  Michael F. Garth, Lexis-Nexis Federal Case Law Editor


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