GM Session Replay Privacy Suit Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction in California, Transferred

A judge in the Eastern District of California granted General Motors Company’s (GM) motion to dismiss in a privacy suit filed against them by plaintiff Dakotah Massie. Massie filed suit against GM, explaining that the company’s use of a software called Decibel for its websites gave them marketing analytics and website statistics that expressly violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act, Cal Penal Code 631 and 635, the California Constitution, and the Federal Wiretap Act. The judge transferred the matter to Delaware.

One of the analytical tools associated with Decibel is a feature called session replay, which provides the website owner with “visitors’ mouse clicks, keystrokes, names, zip codes, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, and locations at the time of the visit.” Massie alleges that this feature enabled GM to unlawfully capture personal information, violating a multitude of California laws.

Following the initial suit, GM filed for a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked personal jurisdiction. They explained that GM owning and operating “websites accessed by California residents are not enough to establish general jurisdiction.”

Since the plaintiffs are opposing the motion by GM to dismiss, they must establish the court’s jurisdiction over the defendant by demonstrating that the “defendant’s own affiliation with California [where the case is being heard] are sufficiently ‘continuous and systematic’ and that California essentially operates as Defendant’s home.” GM operates primarily out of Detroit, Michigan, while Decibel operates out of Delaware. This led the court to conclude that the “plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that this is an exceptional case.”

The court further described that based on the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the website, it was a passive website and therefore did not support jurisdiction. They contended that there was no evidence to demonstrate that GM specifically targeted California, and that session replay does not, in any way, target California or “distinguish California from any other state where GM’s website is accessible.” Ultimately, they found that there was no reason to conclude that the operation of GM websites was “expressly aimed” in California.

Due to the above reasons, the court found a lack of jurisdiction within the case and transferred it to the District of Delaware.The plaintiff is represented by Bursor & Fisher. The defendant is represented by Mayer Brown LLP and Greenberg Traurig.