Internet Defamation Insufficient Basis for Personal Jurisdiction Against Colombia Company

Carlos Henriquez and his wife traveled from their home in Georgia to Colombia to seek infertility treatments. They eventually contracted with a surrogate mother who gave birth to twins. A custody dispute arose between the Henriquezes and the surrogate, and a Colombian court awarded custody to the Henriquezes. A Colombian newspaper, El Pais, published articles about the case and placed the articles online where Georgia residents could access them. Henriquez brought a defamation claim against El Pais arguing that the articles were defamatory. El Pais moved to dismiss the claim for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Henriquez contended that El Pais targeted his family and purposefully directed the defamatory statements at Georgia. He argued that the court had personal jurisdiction over El Pais because it published defamatory statements in print and on its web page that were seen in Georgia. Henriquez submitted evidence that the El Pais web page contained advertisements for U.S. companies that transacted business in Georgia, from which El Pais derived revenue.

El Pais argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction because the advertisements were placed on its site by bogota.jpgan ad server owned and operated by Pautefacil.com, a Colombian company. El Pais did not market its own goods but merely disseminated news stories. The district court granted the motion to dismiss and Henriquez appealed.

Examining possible application of Georgia’s long-arm statute (which is similar to Virginia’s), the court found that Henriquez failed to establish that the cause of action arose from any transaction of business in Georgia. Henriquez’s claims arose from El Pais’ publication of news articles on its websites, not from its placement of advertisements from U.S. companies on its website. Therefore, subsection (1) of the long-arm statute did not apply.

Subsection (3) of the long-arm statute reaches non-resident defendants who commit tortious injury in the state by an act or omission outside of the state if the tortfeasor regularly does business in the state. Jurisdiction under subsection (3) required Henriquez to show that El Pais regularly conducted or solicited business in Georgia or derived substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in Georgia. The only alleged contact with Georgia that El Pais had was displaying advertisements of various companies on their websites, including an ad of a company based in Georgia. The court found this to be an insufficient basis for personal jurisdiction and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case.

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