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High court turns away fight over Net jurisdiction

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused today to consider an Internet-era case that asked which courts should handle lawsuits against people for information they put on the World Wide Web.

The question keeps coming up as more operators of Internet sites are taken to court for things like defamation or invasion of privacy.

The justices turned away an appeal from, which offers ratings of health- care providers on the Internet. A home health-care agency, Northwest Healthcare Alliance, contends it deserved a better grade. The agency sued for defamation in Washington state.

The attorney for said that the company, which operates out of Colorado, should not be forced to go to trial in Washington. Kris Kostolansky said that an appeals court ruling allowing the suit "subjects those who communicate opinions over the Internet to the unconstitutional burden of being subject to suit in any forum, until such time as this court corrects the injustice."

The Supreme Court has considered some Internet cases. But so far, justices have not been willing to consider a cyberspace legal boundary issue: Where can lawsuits involving the Web be filed?

Last month, the Court refused to hear a defamation case that involved parties in Minnesota and Alabama. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that a Minnesota woman who wrote a message on the Internet critical of an Alabama scholar could not be sued for libel in the scholar's home state.

The Internet jurisdiction subject also has come up in Australia, where that country's highest court ruled last year that businessman Joseph Gutnick could sue for defamation over an article published in the United States in Barron's and posted on the Internet.

The Virginia-based Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that Barron's writer William Alpert filed a complaint April 15 with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, "alleging that Australia's libel laws violate his right to publish on the Internet."

In the Washington state case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that had opened itself up for a lawsuit in Washington by grading a Washington state provider and obtaining information for the rating from Washington state records. offers ratings of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and home health-care agencies.

The case is, Inc. v. Northwest Health Care Alliance In., 02-1250.


Minnesota high court: Internet critic can't be sued in Alabama

Unanimous decision overturns rulings in two lower courts that had upheld $25,000 judgment for Alabama scholar. 07.15.02

Australia's high court gives man go-ahead to sue U.S. publication for libel

Analysts believe ruling against Dow Jones & Co. in Internet defamation case could set precedent for courts, affect publishers and Web sites around the world. 12.11.02

Warden can't sue for libel in home state, appeals panel rules
4th Circuit dismisses lawsuit against two Connecticut newspapers, saying articles posted on the Internet weren't aimed at Virginia audience. 12.16.02

Internet libel case with global implications ends in settlement
High Court of Australia unanimously ruled in 2002 that Joe Gutnick could sue U.S. publisher in his home state of Victoria. 11.16.04

Pa. court tosses challenge to date-dissing Web site
Judge rules he has no jurisdiction over defamation lawsuit man filed against Florida-based and its creator. 04.12.07

Slipping and sliding over online jurisdiction
By Douglas Lee Decision allowing Arizona Web site operator to be sued in Illinois federal court leaves many questions unanswered. 04.26.06

Online libel

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Last system update: Monday, February 8, 2010 | 16:47:33
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