Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Proper Jurisdiction for Social Media Defamation Claim Reviewed

In the case of Gorman v. Shpetrik, No. 2:20-CV-04759-CMR (E.D. Pa. March 10, 2022 Rufe, J.), the court addressed jurisdiction issues, and other issues, arising out of a claim of defamation related to online post and tweets that allegedly damaged the Plaintiff’s reputation.

With regard to the jurisdiction issue, the court found that the defendant allegedly directed allegedly defamatory messages to a person within the jurisdiction, with the intent to damage the reputation of another person also in that jurisdiction.  The court found that the defendant had therefore been involved in activity expressly directed at the jurisdiction such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction was proper over the case presented.

Relative to a statute of limitations issues raised by one of the Defendants, the court noted that the limitations period began to run when defamatory material was published.

The court also noted that the Plaintiff’s lack of knowledge as to the Defendant’s identity could not support an application of the discovery rule under the facts presented in this case. 

However, the court found that the Plaintiff had sufficiently pled a claim of fraudulent concealment by alleging that the Defendant had provided false information when registering on the social media platforms on which the allegedly defamatory material was allegedly published. As such, the court allowed discovery on this issue before making a determination as to whether the doctrine of fraudulent concealment could serve to toll the statute of limitations on some of the Plaintiff’s claims in this matter.

The court additionally dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress after finding that this claim failed because the Plaintiff had not alleged any physical injury connected to or caused by the Plaintiff’s alleged emotional distress.

The court also found that the Plaintiff’s claims for civil conspiracy failed because the Plaintiff had not alleged that all members of the purported conspiracy shared a common purpose, but rather, merely alleged that they took acts that furthered the alleged purpose of the conspiracy.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's companion Order can be viewed HERE.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 6, 2022).

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