Judge issues split decision on web-based jurisdictionBy: Tom Egan August 5, 2014
A Navy doctor claiming to have defamed by comments about him on the Internet could not sue three out-of-state defendants in the commonwealth, a Superior Court judge has ruled.Two of those defendants, H.E. Butler III of Virginia and Warren Goff of California, claimed that they did not know that plaintiff Donald C. Arthur lived in Massachusetts.“Considering that from 2009-2011, Arthur’s place of employment was in Pennsylvania and he only spent three or four days a week in Massachusetts, and the rest in Pennsylvania, it is not unreasonable that Butler and Goff did not know that Arthur lived in Massachusetts,” Judge Shannon Frison wrote.
“It follows that if Butler and Goff did not know that Arthur lived in Massachusetts, they could not have intended to cause injury to Arthur in Massachusetts.”The judge found a lack of personal jurisdiction over a third defendant, Michael Volpe of Illinois, who knew that the plaintiff lived in Massachusetts and tried to contact him there.“[T]he court determines that there is no indication that Volpe deliberately directed his message at an audience in Massachusetts or meant to harm Arthur specifically in Massachusetts as opposed to anywhere else,” Frison stated. “The facts of this case do not rise to the level of the cases where courts have held that the defendants intended the brunt of the injury to be felt in the forum state.”A fourth defendant, Frederick M. “Skip” Burkle Jr. of Hawaii, was sued over an article he wrote in CrimeMagazine.com.The plaintiff argued that Burkle’s status as a Visiting Scientist at Harvard University’s School of Public Health provided a basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over him.“The court determines that Arthur had proffered evidence at this stage showing that Burkle has engaged in ‘continuous and systematic general business contacts’ between himself and Massachusetts through his ongoing relationship with Harvard University,” Frison concluded.“… The court concludes that, at this stage of the litigation, the factual allegations in Arthur’s complaint are sufficient to state a claim for defamation. …”Arthur v. John Does 1-12, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-074-14) (19 pages) (Frison, J.) (Suffolk Superior Court) (Civil Action No. 2013-00995-E) (July 30, 2014).The 19-page decision is Arthur v. John Does 1-12, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 12-074-14.