So the Montana Supreme Court holds, in Groo v. Montana Eleventh Jud. Dist. Ct., written by Chief Justice McGrath, joined by Justices Beth Baker, James Jeremiah Shea, and Jim Rice. A few passages:
The underlying case arises from Groo’s purposeful and substantial use of social media to affect the business operations of Triple D Game Farm, Inc. (Triple D). In response, Triple D filed a Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial alleging Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations and Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage claims against Groo.
Groo moved to dismiss the claims against her for lack of personal jurisdiction. She contends that the statements she allegedly made on social media about Triple D did not create the minimum contacts with Montana as a forum nor constitute purposeful availment of the protections afforded by Montana law—both of which are required for a Montana court to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant….[S]imply posting information on the internet for anyone to see is not enough by itself to establish personal jurisdiction over a defendant. However, when a defendant engages in a targeted campaign against a Montana business, tags Montana residents and those doing business in Montana, and encourages them to refrain from doing or continuing actions in Montana, that person has purposefully directed conduct into Montana such that the Due Process Clause allows them to be haled into Montana courts.
This Opinion … reflects the fact that the ease with which a nonresident can use social media to intentionally and substantially interfere with a resident’s interests and rights is not a barrier to a forum’s exercise of specific personal jurisdiction.
The Complaint alleges that Groo stated an intent to destroy a Montana business. She acted on that intent with a targeted social media campaign. And—though she acted on that intent with minimal effort—she nevertheless attempted to rally Montanans and others to undermine a Montana business.
Justice Laurie McKinnon dissented:
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Montana’s long-arm statute protect nonresident defendants from being haled into a state court and bound by its judgments when they have no connection whatsoever to the forum state, regardless of what they have said about a resident plaintiff. Groo may have targeted Triple D, but she has no relationship to Montana and she did not target the State of Montana.
This case can be resolved by applying—correctly and carefully—Montana’s long-arm statute and precedent. Triple D’s tort claims are based on communications occurring outside Montana between nonresident individuals on a national forum specific to the wildlife photography industry. This Court has held other more specific mediums of communication—telephone, fax, emails, letters—which directly targeted a Montana resident were insufficient to exercise personal jurisdiction. Groo’s three “tags” on a public social media present an even less compelling case for exercising personal jurisdiction. I would conclude that the torts pled by Triple D do not arise from the type of conduct enumerated in Montana’s long-arm statute.
However, even if they did, I would conclude that exercising jurisdiction over Groo does not comport with due process….
Kris A. Mclean argued in favor of the real party in interest (Triple D Game Farm, Inc.), and was joined on the briefs by Tyson A. McLean and Jordan A. Pallesi.