United States District Court, Northern District of Florida
Case No. 4:11-CV-00009-RH-WCS
Summary: This lawsuit was filed by iHub in United States Federal Court, requesting the court to grant iHub declaratory relief by invalidating a default judgment Mina Mar obtained in a Canadian court. iHub did not defend the Canadian lawsuit.
Outcome: Final Judgment in favor of iHub on 6/20/2011 in the first United States federal court judgment ever issued under The SPEECH Act. The U.S. District Court found that:
Key excerpt from the judgment:
"The Court hereby declares that the Foreign Defamation Judgment in the matter of Mina Mar Group, Inc., et al. v. Investorshub.com, et al., Court File No. CV-08-364413-0000, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, is not enforceable in the United States pursuant to the SPEECH Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 4101-4105, and any orders entered in connection therewith are invalid and unenforceable in the United States."
Comments: iHub had previously sought a similar order in January, 2009, prior to enactment of both the Florida libel tourism law and the federal SPEECH Act. The U.S. Federal court declined to assume personal jurisdiction over the foreign parties and dismissed the case without prejudice - meaning the court did not rule on the merits of the case. It was scenarios such as this that prompted legislation of anti-libel tourism statutes in several states including Florida (July 2009), followed by the federal SPEECH Act (August 2010). After the enactment of these important laws, iHub was successful in having the Canadian judgment and all related orders declared unenforceable in the United States. The Mina Mar parties originally attempted to defend the action; after being presented with a draft Rule 11 motion which sought sanctions for the incorrect facts and false allegations contained their answer, they filed amended answers removing all of the false statements and all of their affirmative defenses. Subsequently, Mina Mar agreed to a Stipulated Judgment in favor of iHub, and waived enforcement of their default Canadian judgment worldwide and all Canadian proceedings were withdrawn.
The SPEECH Act isn’t a huge change in the law because American courts traditionally avoid enforcing unconstitutional judgments, Wimmer said. It hasn’t sharply decreased the number of foreign suits, but it is starting to make plaintiffs in other countries realize that American courts won’t enforce decisions that are inconsistent with U.S. libel law, he said.
That’s the effect the SPEECH Act had in InvestorsHub.com v. Mina Mar, in the Northern District of Florida.
Mina Mar is a Canadian company that claimed statements on InvestorsHub’s online message board defamed it. Unlike in the United States, a Canadian plaintiff does not have to show that the defendant made the defamatory statement with actual malice.
Mina Mar won in Canada and filed suit in Florida to collect a $100,000 judgment. But, after InvestorsHub cited the SPEECH Act in its complaint for declaratory relief in January, Mina Mar quickly abandoned its efforts to get the money.
“The act is very powerful in its clarity because very shortly after we moved for declaratory relief, the defendant here pretty much conceded that it was going to lose,” said attorney Deanna Shullman, who represented InvestorsHub.
Even without the SPEECH Act, InvestorsHub likely would have won because Florida is one of the few states that offer statutory protection against libel tourism.
In InvestorsHub.com, Inc. v. Mina Mar Group, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87566 (N.D. Fla. June 20, 2011), a Canadian company surrendered its claims in a stipulated final judgment, acknowledging that its Canadian defamation judgment against a U.S. company was not enforceable in Florida because Canadian law does not provide as much protection of speech as the First Amendment and Florida law.
InvestorsHub.com v. Mina Mar Group was cited at Footnote 14 in the district court judgment finding that a defamation judgment issued by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Canada was not enforceable in the United States. InvestorsHub.com v. Mina Mar Group was cited again in the Appellee Brief on page 16. The district court judgment was later upheld on appeal (2013 WL 4766530) in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This was the first appellate level decision involving the SPEECH Act. The earlier iHub v. Mina Mar judgment was never subject to appeal because the Mina Mar Group defendants conceded that their Canadian judgment was not enforceable in the United States and stipulated to a judgment in favor of InvestorsHub. Both cases found that Canadian law does not provide as much protection of speech as the First Amendment. InvestorsHub v. Mina Mar also found that Canadian law does not provide the protections provided by the Communications Decency Act.
This (12/10/2012) article by Laura E. Little of Temple University reviews current developments in U.S. conflict of laws doctrine pertaining to transnational internet defamation cases, including personal jurisdiction, choice of law, and recognition of judgments. (iHub cited at footnote 65.)
This (10/11/2012) article by Laura E. Little of Temple University is a compilation of essays that will appear in an upcoming book Conflict of Laws. The essays cover global, jurisprudential topics as well as doctrinal, fundamental concepts. (iHub cited at footnote 73.)
This (3/11/2014) article by Jeff Todd discusses the recognition of foreign money judgments by U.S. courts. (iHub cited at numerous locations.)