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Personal Jurisdiction Alert: SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc.

We’ll have more to say about SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc., a case decided by the SJC on appeal from the BLS, in the days ahead. But for now, we want to alert judges and practitioners to two points.

First, SCVNGR instructs that, when analyzing personal jurisdiction, courts must consider the Massachusetts long-arm statute before approaching the due-process inquiry under the United States Constitution. To do otherwise, according to the SJC, would violate the “canonical” rule that courts should, if possible, avoid unnecessary constitutional decisions. Thus, it appears obvious that the practice seen in some decisional law, including in the First Circuit, whereby courts bypass the long-arm analysis and move directly to constitutional analysis is impermissible under the teaching of SCVNGR.

Second, SCVNGR addresses an issue that has divided courts: is the standard under the Massachusetts long-arm statute coextensive with the constitutional limit of due process? Writing for the SJC, Justice Lenk expressly answered the question in the negative.

To the extent that “Automatic” Sprinkler Corp. of Am. v. Seneca Foods Corp., 361 Mass. 441, 443 (1972), identifies “the function of the long arm statute as an assertion of jurisdiction over the person to the limits allowed by the Constitution of the United States,” we take this opportunity to clarify that, in accordance with Good Hope Indus., Inc. v. Ryder Scott Co., 378 Mass. 1, 6 (1979), the long-arm statute’s reach is not coextensive with what due process allows.

SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc.

November 8, 2017

Full decision here.

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