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Florida Supreme Court determines that posting defamatory material on a website alone does not constitute the commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of the long-arm statute (F.S. 48.193(1)(b)).

July 1, 2010
Internet Solutions Corporation v. Marshall, No. SC09-272 (Fla. - June 17, 2010)

The Florida Supreme Court answered the question of "whether a non-resident commits a tortious act within Florida for purposes of the Long-Arm Statute (F.S. 48.193(1)(b) when he/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 Supreme Court opined that posting defamatory material on a website alone does not constitute the commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of F.S. 48.193(1)(b). 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 the Long-Arm statute. Marshall, a resident of the state of Washington, owns and operates a website on which she posts about consumer-related issues. According to Internet Solutions Corporation (ISC), Marshall made posts on her website accusing ISC, an employment and recruiting firm, of ongoing criminal activity. ISC, whose principal place of business is in Florida, sued Marshall for defamation in federal district court in Florida. After a lengthy analysis of the Long-Arm statute, the court determined that Marshall's posting of allegedly defamatory material about a Florida company that was accessible in Florida constitutes committing a tortious act within Florida, provided that the material was accessed - and thus published - in Florida. Marshall asserts 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." The court rejected this argument because it ignores the nature of the Web, which is fundamentally different from a telephone call, e-mail, or a letter - by posting on her website, Marshall made the material accessible by anyone with Internet access worldwide. Thus, once the allegedly defamatory material is published in Florida, Marshall has committed the tortious act of defamation within Florida for purposes of Florida's Long-Arm statute.

Case Law Alert - 3rd Qtr 2010

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Andrew J. Marchese
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(954) 847-4934
ajmarchese@mdwcg.com

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