On November 1, 2007, Internet Solutions, a company that runs a number of employment recruiting and Internet advertising businesses, including VeriResume , sued blogger Tabatha Marshall in federal court in Florida.
Marshall runs a blog and website at www.tabathamarshall.com, on which she writes about suspicious online job solicitations and so-called "phishing " practices. Part of her site consists of the "PhishBucket ," a "directory of companies/individuals suspected of targeting job seekers with deceptive offers." Included in the PhishBucket is an entry for "VeriResume (Internet Solutions)," which bears the statement "Pending Investigation Phisher" at the top-right of the page. The entry also contains physical and web addresses for the company, links to posts about it (internal and external), and names of affiliated companies. The PhishBucket also includes entries for other companies operated by Internet Solutions, including Ask America, Scout 2007, Too Spoiled, and USA Voice.
Marshall's site also contains articles relating to her research and views about certain companies and their online job solicitations. Among these is a post entitled "Something's VeriRotten with VeriResume." In this post, Marshall excerpts a sample email from VeriResume soliciting job applications, criticizes the company's position on resume fraud, and links to other sites (like the Better Business Bureau ) with information about VeriResume and Internet Solutions. She invites readers to "[c]heck out the research and YOU decide if you want to give them your info."
Several users submitted comments to the post that were critical of VeriResume. One user, who claimed to be a company employee, alleged that the company engages in a "bait-and-switch" routine after applicants submit their information, according to documents attached to the complaint. In an update to her original post, Marshall summarized these user's comments and expounded on the situation.
Starting on October 30, 2007, a representative of VeriResume (or Internet Solutions -- the record is not clear on this point) contacted Marshall via email, claiming that information about VeriResume and other companies posted on Marshall's website was incorrect and asking her to remove it. According to Marshall, the company representative also contacted her landlord, claiming that Marshall was operating a business in her house, a claim that Marshall disputes. On October 31, 2007, one day before filing suit, counsel representing VeriResume and ten other Internet Solutions-affiliated companies sent a cease-and-desist letter to Marshall via email. (For more information on the emails and letter, please see the CMLP database entry, VeriResume v. Marshall (Email) ).
Internet Solutions's complaint includes claims for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and injurious falsehood (trade libel ). It alleges that Marshall has "author[ed], post[ed], and publish[ed]" statements claiming that Internet Solutions engages in "phishing," "scams," and other criminal and fraudulent conduct. It requests compensatory and punitive damages , and an injunction requiring Marshall to remove the allegedly defamatory posts and prohibiting her from making future defamatory statements about the company.
Marshall was served with the complaint on November 3, and she has 20 days to respond. Marshall maintains that she merely posts her opinions, publicly available information, and third-party comments and asks her readers to draw their own conclusions. She is seeking legal assistance in this matter.
4/8/2008 - The court dismissed the complaint, holding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Marshall.
4/24/08 - Internet Solutions indicated to Marshall that it intends to file an appeal and commence another lawsuit in Washington state.
04/29/08 - Internet Solutions filed a notice that it has appealed the dismissal to the 11th Circuit.
06/06/2008 - Internet Solutions filed its appellate brief with the 11th Circuit.
07/16/2008 - Marshall filed her appellate brief with the 11th Circuit.
02/10/2009 - The 11th Circuit certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court: "Does posting allegedly defamatory stories and comments about a company with its principal place of business in Florida on a non-commercial website owned and operated by a nonresident with no other connections to Florida constitute a commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of Fla. Stat. section 48.193(1)(b)?"
03/03/2010 - Florida Supreme Court heard oral argument on the certified question.
06/17/2010 - Florida Supreme Court issued its decision on the certified question:
We answer the rephrased certified question in the affirmative. We conclude that posting defamatory material on a website alone does not constitute the commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of section 48.193(1)(b), Florida Statutes. Rather, the material posted on the website about a Florida resident must not only be accessible in Florida, but also be accessed in Florida in order to constitute the commission of the tortious act of defamation within Florida under section 48.193(1)(b).
9/30/2010 - District Court dismissed case based on lack of personal jurisdiction.