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The long arm of Ohio

A Virginia man who posted allegedly defamatory comments on Internet message boards about an Ohio-based company has to defend himself in Ohio, according to the Buckeye State’s highest court.

The plaintiff company, which makes racing equipment, is based in Glenmont, Ohio. The defendant, who lives in Richmond, argued that the Ohio long-arm statute didn’t apply. The comments were posted on two general auto-racing sites and on an eBay Motors auction site, none of which are based in Ohio. Didn’t matter, said the Ohio court. The Ohio statute applies where “defamatory statements regarding an Ohio plaintiff are made outside the state yet with the purpose of causing injury to the Ohio resident and there is a reasonable expectation that the purposefully inflicted injury will occur in Ohio.”

Two justices dissented, saying essentially, “Oh, come on!” None of the posted-on sites, a dissenter wrote, has “any specific connection to Ohio or [is] more likely to be viewed by a resident of Ohio than by a resident of any other state.”

An expert in defamation law said that this case, Kauffman Racing Equipment LLC v. Roberts, takes one of the most expansive views of jurisdiction in libel cases he has ever seen.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has the story.

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