Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 2:35 PM

COA says no jurisdiction over out-of-state defendant who allegedly defamed NC resident on website available to everyone

Today, the Court of Appeals held that an out-of-state defendant's posting of allegedly defamatory remarks about a North Carolina citizen, posted on a website accessible to everyone, including people in North Carolina, but not "directed" at North Carolina, did not subject the defendant to personal jurisdiction. The case is Dailey v. Pompa.

The defendant posted, from his home state of Georgia, allegedly defamatory remarks about the plaintiff, a North Carolina resident. He posted the remarks on an internet bulletin board/website. The plaintiff sued, the court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. First, the Court noted, the only issue was whether federal due process allowed the exercise of jurisdiction, because neither party disputed that North Carolina's long-arm statute applied. Second, the Court also noted that the only issue was whether specific jurisdiction existed, because neither party claimed that the defendant had sufficient contacts for general jurisdiction. Turning to the narrow issue at hand, the Court quoted the Fourth Circuit's well-cited holding on internet jurisdiction in ALS Scan v. Digital Services Consultants, Inc.: "a State may, consistent with due process, exercise judicial power of a person outisde of the State when that person (1) directs electronic activity into the State, (2) with the manifested intent of engaging in business or other interactions within the State, and (3) that activity creates, in a person within the State, a potential cause of action cognizable in the State's courts." Applying this standard, and citing several cases almost directly on-point, the Court concluded that there was no jurisdiction here because the bulletin board posting was not "directed," "targeted," or "focused" at North Carolina or North Carolina readers in particular. The Court also recognized that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Calder v. Jones, which discussed whether a defamation injury necessarily felt in the forum state was sufficient to confer jurisdiction, was a pre-internet case less relevant than ALS Scan and other internet cases, which make clear that defamatory material posted to the internet "in general" but injuring a person in a particular state does not subject the poster to jurisdictionin in that particular state.

Importantly, this case, like the cases it cited, dealt with alleged defamation arising from information posted to bulletin boards/websites, not injuries stemming from sales to a plaintiff through a commercial website. In the latter type of case, jurisdiction would seem appropriate even if the commercial website was not "targeted" at a particular state, but at internet users in general. This would seem to be true under both pre-internet "stream of commerce" cases and ALS Scan and its progeny.

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