A Minnesota woman who wrote a message on the internet which criticised an Alabama scholar cannot be sued for libel in the scholar's home state, a Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled.
A $25,000 judgement against Marianne Luban, whose comments on an internet newsgroup devoted to Egyptology were directed at Katherine Griffis, was set aside.
Luban refused to attend court after her lawyers argued that Alabama did not have jurisdiction in the case, leading to the default judgement. Griffis then asked a Minnesota court to enforce the award.
But Luban's argument was that, since libel cases for printed materials occur in the place where the statement is produced, the case should have been heard in Minnesota.
The court's unanimous decision overturned rulings in two lower Minnesota courts upholding the Alabama verdict.
The court's written ruling said: "The fact that messages posted to the newsgroup could have been read in Alabama, just as they could have been read anywhere in the world, cannot suffice to establish Alabama as the focal point of the defendant's conduct."
Griffis's attorney Peter Erlinder told the Nando Times that the ruling effectively gave Minnesota residents the freedom "to attack people anywhere in the world".
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