United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
defamation suit, Plaintiff Ching-Yi Lin (“Lin”)
alleges that Defendant TipRanks, Ltd.
(“TipRanks”) wrongfully ranked her extremely low
on its financial analyst performance website, which prevented
her from obtaining employment as an analyst for almost three
years. [ECF No. 1-1 (“Complaint” or
“Compl.”) at 8-11]. Lin brought this suit in the
Massachusetts Superior Court for Suffolk County on April 17,
2019 and on July 11, 2019, TipRanks removed the case to this
Court. [ECF No. 1 at 1]. TipRanks then moved to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). [ECF No. 10]. Lin opposed the
motion to dismiss. [ECF No. 14]. For the reasons stated
below, TipRanks' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 10] is
summary draws from allegations in the Complaint and
attestations in the affidavits submitted by the parties. Lin
was domiciled in Massachusetts from October 2015 until August
2016, although she now resides in New York. [ECF No. 14-2
¶¶ 1, 3, 4]. Lin is an equity research analyst who
advises investors on whether to purchase or sell shares of
biotech companies. [Id. ¶ 2]. TipRanks is an
Israeli technology company that operates its website
exclusively from Israel. [ECF No. 11 at 1]. TipRanks
“aggregates and analyzes the financial data that is
publicly available online to provide a data-driven measure of
accuracy based on the statistical ability of an expert to
generate profits from investment recommendations.” [ECF
No. 12 ¶ 2]. TipRanks uses this information to rank
financial analysts based on their performance. These rankings
are then “ma[de] available for free on its website,
” where they can be accessed anywhere and viewed by
anyone, including in Massachusetts and by Massachusetts
residents. [Id. ¶ 3]. Visitors accessing
TipRanks' website also have the option to subscribe to
TipRanks' premium services for an annual fee, which
provides full access to TipRanks' stock market research
tools. [ECF No. 14-1 ¶ 6]. TipRanks is not registered to
do business in Massachusetts, has no employees in
Massachusetts, does not maintain an office or own any
personal or real property in Massachusetts, and does not
derive “substantial revenue” from business in
Massachusetts. [ECF No. 11 at 3].
2018, Lin was ranked 4, 771 out of 4, 832 analysts on
TipRanks' website. [Compl. at 9]. Lin contends that her
ranking was “erroneous” because it was based on
two stocks that she had never covered and on stock at a
company that did not yet exist at the time her ranking was
published. [ECF No. 14-2 ¶ 9]. Between November 2015 and
August 2016, Lin “applied to at least 100 jobs in the
Boston area, ” with no success. [Id.
¶¶ 4-8]. She “would have a series of
favorable interviews and then, mysteriously, find herself
dropped by companies to which she had tendered
applications.” [Compl. at 9]. In 2018, she learned of
her poor ranking on TipRanks and shortly thereafter requested
that TipRanks remove her ranking. [Id. at 10].
TipRanks agreed to remove Lin's ranking from its website.
[Id.]. Once Lin's ranking no longer appeared in
a Google search for her name, she received a job offer within
a month. [ECF No. 14-2 ¶ 9]. Lin now claims that
“the erroneous statements on the TipRanks website . . .
damage[d] [her] reputation in the stock analyst
community” and were “sufficient to deter
potential employers from hiring [her].” [Compl. at 10].
This, in turn, “caused [her] economic loss, and
prejudiced her profession, all to her damage.”
STANDARD OF REVIEW
bears the burden of establishing that specific jurisdiction
exists over TipRanks. A Corp. v. All Am. Plumbing,
Inc., 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing
Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st
Cir. 2008)). “When a district court rules on a motion
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without holding
an evidentiary hearing . . ., the ‘prima facie'
standard governs its determination.” United States
v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir.
2001). Under the prima facie standard, the plaintiff must
proffer “evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to
support findings of all facts essential to personal
jurisdiction.” A Corp., 812 F.3d at 58
(quoting Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d at 26).
“[P]laintiffs may not rely on unsupported allegations
in their pleadings, ” and are instead “obliged to
adduce evidence of specific facts” supporting
jurisdiction. Platten v. HG Berm. Exempted Ltd., 437
F.3d 118, 134 (1st Cir. 2006) (first quoting Boit v.
Gar-Tec Prods., Inc., 967 F.2d 671, 675 (1st Cir. 1992),
then quoting Foster-Miller, Inc. v. Babcock & Wilcox
Can., 46 F.3d 138, 145 (1st Cir. 1995)). The Court takes
as true whatever properly documented facts a plaintiff
proffers, construes those facts in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff, and considers facts put forward by the
defendant to the extent they are uncontradicted. See
Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d at 26; Platten, 437
F.3d at 134.
establish personal jurisdiction in a diversity case, a
plaintiff must satisfy both the forum state's long-arm
statute and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment.” C.W. Downer & Co. v. Bioriginal
Food & Sci. Corp., 771 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2015)
(citing Ticketmaster-N.Y., Inc. v. Alioto, 26 F.3d
201, 204 (1st Cir. 1994)). The Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment allows a state court to exercise
personal jurisdiction over a nonresident only where the
exercise of jurisdiction “does not offend
‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citations
omitted). Massachusetts also articulates requirements for
when courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over
nonresidents through its long-arm statute. Because “the
long-arm statute imposes specific constraints on the exercise
of personal jurisdiction that are not coextensive with the
parameters of due process . . . a determination under the
long-arm statute is to precede consideration of the
constitutional question.” SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh,
Inc., 85 N.E.3d 50, 52 (Mass. 2017); see also
Cossart v. United Excel Corp., 804 F.3d 13, 18 (1st Cir.
2015) (“The requirements of the Massachusetts long-arm
statute are similar to-although not necessarily the same
as-those imposed by the Due Process Clause.”).
Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute
3(c) of the Massachusetts long-arm statute allows for the
exercise of “personal jurisdiction over a person, who
acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law
or equity arising from the person's . . . causing
tortious injury by an act or omission in this
commonwealth.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3(c).
Courts have liberally construed section 3(c) in cases
involving out-of-state internet postings. See, e.g.,
Abiomed, Inc., v. Turnbull, 379 F.Supp.2d 90, 92 (D.
‘arising from' clause in [the long-arm statute] is
. . . generously construed in favor of asserting personal
jurisdiction, by applying a ‘but for' causation
test.” Workgroup Tech. Corp. v. MGM Grand Hotel,
LLC., 246 F.Supp.2d 102, 112 (D. Mass. 2003). The
arising from inquiry asks “[d]id the defendant's
contacts with the Commonwealth constitute the first step in a
train of events that result[ed] in the . . . injury.”
Access Now, Inc. v. Otter Prods., LLC, 280 F.Supp.3d
287, 291 (D. Mass. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Lyle Richards Int'l, Ltd. v. Ashworth,
Inc., 132 F.3d 111, 114 (1st Cir. 1997)).
alleges that TipRanks is subject to personal jurisdiction
pursuant to section 3(c) of the Massachusetts long-arm
statute because “TipRanks' defamatory act occurred
‘in' Massachusetts, ” which is where the
defamatory material was disseminated. [ECF No. 14 at 4- 5].
First, the “arising from” clause is satisfied
because the online ranking published by TipRanks and
allegedly accessed in Massachusetts is a but-for cause of the
injury. TipRanks' publication of Lin's erroneous
ranking, which was available in Massachusetts, allegedly
deterred Massachusetts employers from hiring her, which
caused economic loss and damaged her reputation. See,
e.g., Roy v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.,
No. 3:17-cv-30116, 2018 WL 2324092, at *5 (D. Mass. May 22,
2018) (finding that the “arising from” clause was
satisfied where the cause of action stemmed from activities
by the defendant occurring in Massachusetts).
“[w]hen business is transacted over a computer network
via a Web-site accessed by a computer in Massachusetts, it
takes place as much in Massachusetts, literally or
figuratively, as it does anywhere.” Dig. Equip.
Corp. v. AltaVista Tech., Inc., 960 F.Supp. 456, 462 (D.
Mass. 1997). In addition, “[t]he tort of libel is
generally held to occur wherever the offending material is
circulated.” Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc.,
465 U.S. 770, 777 (1984). Here, because the defamatory
material on TipRanks' website was allegedly accessed or