SW Legal studies in Business

Libel via Website Creates Basis for Jurisdiction in State of Party Subject to Attack
Description

Missouri appeals court held that a business owner in Missouri, subject to attack on a website devoted to attacking the business, could sue the website owner for libel in state court in Missouri. The libel was directed at a Missouri resident doing business in Missouri and was read by people in Missouri, thereby establishing jurisdiction in Missouri.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Jurisdiction; Due Process; Minimum Contacts; Long-Arm Jurisdiction

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Plaintiffs are Missouri residents doing business as “Whispering Lane Kennel.” They breed and show AKC dogs, especially the Chinese Crested breed, which won “Best of Breed” at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. Defendants show and sell Chinese Crested dogs in competition with plaintiffs. Defendants ran a website, www.stop-whisperingland.com. It contained negative information about plaintiffs’ kennel and was viewed by people around the country, including some people in Missouri. Plaintiffs sued defendants for libel in state district court in Missouri. The court held that minimum contacts had not been established, so Missouri courts did not have jurisdiction over defendants. Plaintiffs appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. A test for establishing jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in an intentional tort action suggest three requirements for personal jurisdiction: 1) intentional conduct; 2) expressly aimed at the forum state; 3) with the defendant’s knowledge that the effects would be felt, that is, that the plaintiff would be injured in the forum state. The owners of the website purposefully directed their activities at Missouri. The plaintiffs are Missouri residents and their business specifically attacked on the website is located in Missouri. Some of the readers of the website were in Missouri. One injured in one state need not go to another state to seek redress from persons in another state who knowingly caused injury. Exercise of personal jurisdiction by Missouri courts does not offend notions of fair play and substantial justice under the due process clause.

Citation

Baldwin v. Fisher-Smith, ---S.W.3d--- (2010 WL 2662977, Ct. App., Mo., 2010)

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