Internet Slander: Can You Sue In Florida Even If The Slander Was Posted Out Of State?
Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to sue someone in Florida when they slander you in a blog or Internet posting that might have occurred halfway around the world? The answer is yes. The Florida Supreme Court answered that question in the case of Internet Solutions Corp. v. Marshall. Therein, the court held that a non-resident defendant commits the tortious act of defamation in Florida for purposes of Florida’s long-arm statute when the non-resident makes allegedly defamatory statements about a Florida resident by posting those statements on a website, provided that the website posts containing the statements are accessible in Florida and accessed in Florida.
What does that mean? Well, attorneys, if your client reads the email while living in Florida, he or she probably can sue for damages in this state. Also, since slander damages can require witness testimony about the extent of the damage to someone’s reputation, a lot of times the damage witnesses would also be living in Florida. A wise practitioner would always allege sufficient facts to trigger Florida’s long arm jurisdiction statutes. So once a lawsuit is filed, could a savvy defendant try to get the case dismissed or moved to a different jurisdiction?
That exact occurrence happened in a recent slander lawsuit entitled Nordilicht, et al. v. Discala. The allegations in this case were that all of the defendants had issued or participated in slanderous statements in the state of New York. However, the plaintiff argued that all of his damages witnesses were in Palm Beach County. This lawsuit arose over allegations that Discala was connected or involved in the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme, which occurred primarily in Florida. The defendants who were sued had either first made the statements in New York or spread them throughout the Internet from computers located in New York.
In trying to get the lawsuit dismissed or transferred to New York where the defendants’ actions physically occurred, they attempted to argue that Florida was not the most convenient forum for this lawsuit to proceed. The plaintiff’s lawyer wisely countered that all of the damages witnesses were located in Florida and so if someone was going to be inconvenienced it shouldn’t be them. The 4th District Court of Appeal affirmed Palm Beach County Judge Crow’s decision denying the motion and leaving the litigation in Palm Beach County. This opinion provides an example of good motion practice defense. Discala’s attorney had affidavits from the damages witnesses indicating that they would not like to travel to New York if they were called as witnesses in this case. Given this was a discretionary call on the part of the judge, the 4th DCA affirmed Judge Crow’s decision.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by jannoon028