A nonresident blogger can be sued for defaming a Florida-based company on her out-of-state website, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled unanimously.
The case, Internet Solutions Corp. v. Tabatha Marshall, involved a Washington state-based blogger who posts consumer-related material on her website, according to the Florida Supreme Court. Internet Solutions is based in Nevada but has Orlando, Florida, as its principal place of business, the court noted in its ruling Thursday, June 17.
The company sued Marshall for defamation in federal court in Florida, but she sought to have the suit dismissed because of her lack of ties to Florida. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually asked the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether Florida law applied in the case.
“According to [ISC], Marshall made posts on her website in which she accused ISC, an employment and recruiting firm, of ongoing criminal activity,” according to the Florida Supreme Court decision. “The only issue in this case is whether Marshall’s allegedly defamatory posts on her website subject her to personal jurisdiction in Florida under this state‘s long-arm statute.”
The court held unanimously that Marshall is subject to Florida law. It dismissed her contention that “her acts were completed in the state of Washington and nothing on the website could be published to a Florida computer ‘unless (and until) the reader reached up into Washington and retrieved it,’ ” according to the court.
Such an argument ignores the nature of the World Wide Web, the state high court said.
By posting the material on her website, Marshall “made the material accessible by anyone with Internet access worldwide,” the court ruled. A nonresident commits defamation in Florida for purposes of Florida law when the nonresident “makes allegedly defamatory statements about a Florida resident by posting those statements on a website, provided that the website posts are accessible in Florida and accessed in Florida,” ruled the Florida court, which returned the case to the appeals court.