August 10, 2018 10:19:49 AM
The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled a lawsuit by state Attorney General Jim Hood against Google may be heard in Lowndes County.
Hood sued Google, Inc. in Lowndes County Chancery Court in January 2017, alleging the California-based tech company was targeting advertisements toward school children who used its G Suite for Education (GSFE) platform in violation of both Mississippi law and Google's own policies.
In February 2017, Google moved for the case to be dismissed on the grounds Lowndes County Chancery Court was not a "proper venue" under the Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure. Since then, the two parties have gone back and forth, with Chancery Court Judge Kenneth Burns finally ruling in September 2017 that the case could be determined in Lowndes County and the Supreme Court upholding that ruling earlier this week.
Google's argument, according to chancery court documents, was that Google is not based in Mississippi, much less Lowndes County, while Hood argued Google's actions affected Lowndes County residents.
"Google actively seeks relationships with Mississippians and benefits when those Mississippians utilize its products, yet Google asks this Court to find that it is not subject to being sued in Mississippi when it misrepresents the nature of those products," Hood alleges in chancery court documents. "Google's position that it cannot be held accountable in any Mississippi court for the actions alleged in (Hood's) complaint is illogical."
Google referenced a Mississippi law that said companies can only be sued in the county where they reside, unless they consent to being sued in Hinds County, but Burns said that law does not exclude other venues when the defendant's principal place of business is outside the state.
Thursday a panel of Supreme Court justices denied a motion for appeal which Google filed, though Chief Justice Bill Waller filed an objection to the order saying the court should have taken up the case to resolve differing opinions on state law about venue.
Hood's suit said Google had been collecting data from accounts of school children in Mississippi, where he said about half of schools use GSFE. Last year, local school districts, including Columbus Municipal School District, Lowndes County School District and Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science previously told The Dispatch they are not involved in Hood's investigation. MSMS and LCSD representatives confirmed they use Google products for teaching and MSMS students use G Suite for email, but neither district planned to alter their tech policies or stop using Google products.
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