Volokh conspiracy lawyer scrgruppen

So the Montana Supreme Court, in… Gru vs. Montana XI Judd. alive. ct., written by Chief Justice McGrath, and joined by Justices Beth Baker, James Jeremiah Shea, and Jim Rice. Some clips:

The underlying case arises from Groo’s purposeful and significant use of social media to influence the business operations of Triple D Game Farm, Inc. (Triple D). In response, Triple D filed a Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial alleging tortious interference with contractual relationships and tortious interference with potential economic advantage claims against Groo.

Grow moved to dismiss the claims against her for lack of personal jurisdiction. She asserts that the statements she allegedly made on social media about Triple D did not create minimal contact with Montana as a forum and do not constitute intentional taking advantage of the protections afforded by Montana law — both of which are required of a Montana court to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant. …

[S]Posting information on the Internet for anyone to view is not in itself sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant. However, when a defendant engages in a targeted campaign against a Montana business, tags Montana residents and those doing business in Montana, and encourages them to refrain from doing or continuing business in Montana, that person has intentionally directed the conduct at Montana. So that the defendant does not comply, the Process Clause allows them to be brought before the Montana courts.

This opinion… reflects the fact that the ease with which a non-resident can use social media to intentionally and materially interfere with a resident’s interests and rights does not constitute an impediment to the forum exercising specific personal jurisdiction.

The complaint alleges that Grow announced his intention to destroy a Montana business. I acted on this intention with a targeted social media campaign. Although it acted on this intention with minimal effort, it nonetheless attempted to rally Montanans and others to undermine Montana businesses.

Judge Laurie McKinnon dissented:

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Montana law protects nonresident defendants from being brought to state court and bound by its rulings when they have no connection at all to the court state, regardless of what they said about the resident plaintiff. Gru may have targeted Triple D, but it has nothing to do with Montana and did not target the state of Montana.

This case can be resolved through the correct and careful application of Montana law and precedent. Triple D’s damage claims are based on communications outside Montana between non-resident individuals in a national wildlife photography industry forum. This court held that other, more specific means of communication—telephone, fax, emails, and letters—that directly targeted a Montana resident were insufficient to exercise personal jurisdiction. Groo’s three “flags” on public social media represent a less compelling case of the exercise of personal jurisdiction. I would conclude that the damages recognized by Triple D do not arise from the type of conduct enumerated in Montana’s long-arm statute.

However, even if they did, I would conclude that exercising jurisdiction over a puppy is inconsistent with due process….

Chris A. McLean argued for the real party in question (Triple D Game Farm, Inc.), and was joined in the briefs by Tyson A. McLean and Jordan A. Palisi.

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