JT Morris Law recently helped a client get a federal libel lawsuit over a public health debate dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The firm’s client, a Turkish-American immunologist and a vocal supporter of the COVID-19 vaccines, responded on Twitter to questions about a Texas-based doctor’s credentials to criticize COVID vaccines. The Texas doctor then sued the firm’s client in the Southern District of Texas for libel and civil conspiracy.
JT Morris Law moved to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, arguing (1) that the tweets had no connection to Texas and (2) that the Texas doctor was suing over no more than protected opinion in a key public health debate and had failed to allege enough for actual malice. The district court, looking to a recent Fifth Circuit decision about internet jurisdiction in libel cases, agreed that the tweets lacked any connection to Texas and dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. For that reason, it did not reach the arguments about opinion and actual malice.
The ruling is a good example of how a plaintiff suing an out-of-state defendant for internet speech must show the speech “targeted” the plaintiff’s state “specifically and knowingly” to establish personal jurisdiction.
You can read the dismissal order here.