By:  Andrew Stebbins, Attorney

You have options when it comes to filing an online defamation lawsuit. Jurisdictional rules apply to all lawsuits, but online defamation cases can usually be filed in more than one state.

In general, you can choose between filing your lawsuit in states where:

  • You live
  • The defamer lives
  • Your business operates
  • Your customers live
  • You’ve experienced losses or damages as a result of the defamation

There are a variety of factors to consider before deciding where to file your lawsuit to maximize your chances of success. At Minc Law, we’ve represented thousands of clients, all over the United States, who have experienced online defamation. These are a variety of the factors we consider when determining jurisdiction.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • How you may be able to file defamation lawsuits in more than one state
  • The jurisdictional factors that apply to online defamation lawsuits
  • How to choose the best venue for your defamation suit
  • How the attorneys at Minc Law are able to represent defamation clients all over the United States

The first question on most clients’ minds is whether they are required to file a defamation lawsuit in a specific jurisdiction. Let’s start with a brief explanation of the jurisdictional rules that apply to defamation cases.

Are you being defamed online? Contact Minc Law today!

Do I Have to File My Lawsuit in a Certain Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction plays a huge rule in every lawsuit that can affect the outcome of your case. If you aren’t familiar with the term “jurisdiction,” it is simply the legal phrasing for where your case can be filed.

When a particular court has jurisdiction over a case, they have the power to make legal decisions and judgments – and the laws of their state will apply. Because U.S. defamation laws vary from state to state, it’s wise to do your research before filing a defamation lawsuit. Some states, like California, should be avoided for defamation suits if possible, because they have stronger Anti-SLAPP and freedom of speech protections than other states.

The good news is that jurisdictional rules, when applied to a defamation lawsuit, can provide ample opportunity to strategically decide where you want to file your lawsuit. This way you can maximize your chances of success and a favorable outcome.

Anonymous Poster Tip: Procuring a subpoena is generally a two-step process, where (1) a subpoena is served on ‘Website A’ where the comments and libelous posts were actually made. Once Website A produced an anonymous poster’s IP address, the plaintiff will (2) then serve a second subpoena on the ISP which owns and handles such addresses. The second subpoena is the actual subpoena which requests an anonymous poster’s personal information.

Many Factors to Consider

Jurisdiction is not determined solely based on where the defamer lives. You can also start a lawsuit in the state where you live if you live in a different state than the defamer. If you are a business owner and the online defamation involves harm to your business, your jurisdictional options expand even further.

You may be able to file a lawsuit in the state where your business is headquartered or where a large number of your clients come from. If your business has an online presence or serves clients beyond the boundaries of one state, you may be able to file a lawsuit in those states. When you have a multi-state or national online presence, you can make an argument that defamatory damages occurred in many jurisdictions.

Once you compile a list of possible jurisdictions, you’ll want to assess your options and select the best state to file your lawsuit. The first thing you will want to consider is which states provide the best law for your claim, in perspective of both jurisdiction and defamation. Try to avoid states with rigorous Anti-SLAPP laws and stricter requirements for defamation lawsuits.  Also try to avoid states with weaker jurisdiction laws so as to not run into any issues after filing.

Secondly, you want to consider personal convenience. You will have to testify, so you want to select a state which will be convenient for travel purposes. Also, if you’re looking to save on costs, some jurisdictions are much more affordable than others.

Finally, there are some other creative considerations that may justify a specific jurisdiction – such as which defamation defenses are (or aren’t) available to defendants.

Defamation Lawsuit Tip: When filing an internet defamation lawsuit, remember three fundamental things: (1) do not draw more unwanted attention to the case, personal information, or libelous content at issue, (2) follow all legal procedures and requirements so the case is not dismissed, (3) strive to obtain adequate relief and favorable results.

How Does Minc Law Handle Cases Everywhere?

Attorneys are licensed state by state. Most of the attorneys at Minc Law are licensed in Ohio, but we’re still able to represent clients for online defamation lawsuits in every state, by working with local attorneys in various jurisdictions. In fact, we’ve litigated cases in 22 states and 3 countries by utilizing local counsel or requesting temporary admission.

Litigation Needs Outside of Ohio

When we handle an online defamation lawsuit outside of Ohio, we work with local in-state counsel. By partnering with local counsel we ensure compliance with other state’s rules and procedures. Plus, there’s the added benefit of working with an attorney who’s familiar with the particular court where your case will progress.

For example, if you have been defamed in Maryland, we can still help even though our firm is located in Ohio. We would simply partner with a Maryland attorney to ensure we’re complying with Maryland rules and procedures.

Local counsel are usually not online defamation experts, but are familiar with their state’s procedures and have local relationships. However, the team at Minc Law directs the course of litigation and drafts all legal documents, regardless of where they are filed.

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We Ask For Temporary Admission if Necessary (Pro Hac Vice)

All states have a form of pro hac vice admission which permits out-of-state attorneys temporary admission, for a specific case only. This approach is usually employed when an answer is filed and prolonged litigation is anticipated.

Using these strategies, we’re able to strategically pick the most favorable venues for our online defamation clients – and provide our clients the best chance at prevailing in their claim.

Bottom line, we want you to know that when it comes to jurisdiction in online defamation cases:

  • You have options regarding where you can file your lawsuit. Typically, you can start a defamation lawsuit in your state, the defamer’s state of residence, a state where your business operates, where your customers live, or where the damages occurred.
  • There are a variety of factors to consider before you decide on the best state to file your defamation lawsuit. Some states have more favorable defamation laws.
  • At Minc Law, we handle defamation cases all over the United States. We work with local counsel to ensure your suit can be filed in the most advantageous forum for you.

Minc Law Can Help With Your Online Defamation Lawsuit

If you’ve been defamed online and are considering where you should file a defamation lawsuit, it’s worthwhile to consult with an attorney. The online defamation attorneys at Minc Law are well-versed in defamation lawsuits. We have represented defamation victims in 22 states and 3 countries.

If you’d like to get strategic advice or learn more about your options, complete our contact form or call us at (216) 373-7706. We offer free, no-obligation initial consultations, for your convenience and peace of mind.

Together, we can fight for your reputation.

Are you being defamed online? We will get it removed. Contact Minc Law today!

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