Monday, June 21, 2010

The long arm of the law. Specifically, website postings and Florida's long arm statute.

Tabatha Marshall, who lives in Washington, posted comments on her website where she accused Internet Solutions Corporation of criminal activity. ISC, whose principal place of business is in Florida, sued her for defamation in federal court here in Florida. Marc Randazza (the editor of Legal Satyricon) represented Marshall. His blog described the background of the case briefly here.
The Middle District of Florida dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over Marshall. Internet Solutions appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit then a certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court on whether Marshall’s alleged activities were within the scope of Florida’s long-arm statute.
The Florida Supreme Court phrased the certified question as:
DOES A NONRESIDENT COMMIT A TORTIOUS ACT WITHIN FLORIDA FOR PURPOSES OF SECTION 48.193(1)(b) WHEN HE OR SHE MAKES ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS ABOUT A COMPANY WITH ITS PRINCIPAL PLACE OF BUSINESS IN FLORIDA BY POSTING THOSE STATEMENTS ON A WEBSITE, WHERE THE WEBSITE POSTS CONTAINING THE STATEMENTS ARE ACCESSIBLE AND ACCESSED IN FLORIDA?
The Florida Supreme Court answered -- yes.
We answer the rephrased certified question in the affirmative. We conclude that posting defamatory material on a website alone does not constitute the commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of section 48.193(1)(b), Florida Statutes. Rather, the material posted on the website about a Florida resident must not only be accessible in Florida, but also be accessed in Florida in order to constitute the commission of the tortious act of defamation within Florida under section 48.193(1)(b).
(emphasis in original). So, a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida if she: (1) posts something on a webpage; (2) the webpage is accessible in Florida; and (3) someone also access it in Florida. But if nobody accesses it here (even if it's accessible), she's not subject to personal jurisdiction?

My colleague Jeffrey Kuntz has additional information here.


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