Court Tells Melania Trump She Can't Sue The Daily Mail In Maryland, So She Refiles In New York

from the because-of-course-not dept

Disclaimer: As you probably already know, the lawyer in this story, Charles Harder, is the lawyer in the ongoing lawsuit against us.

Back in September of last year, we wrote about how our now First Lady Melania Trump, represented by Charles Harder, had sued the Daily Mail and some blogger in Maryland. As we noted at the time, the choice of Maryland for the venue was odd -- since the Daily Mail is a UK publication and Trump (at the time) lived in NY. We speculated that the blogger -- Webster Griffin Tarpley, who was not widely known -- may have been included solely to try to get the case into a Maryland court. As we noted at the time, Maryland's anti-SLAPP law is notoriously weak. In a profile on Harder last year, the Hollywood Reporter noted that he's well aware of the differences in state laws:

In his offices, Harder keeps charts mapping the differences in libel and privacy laws throughout the country. He also has become a pro on where to strategically file cases.

A couple weeks ago, the court let the case against Tarpley go forward, but late last week dismissed the case against the Daily Mail, saying that the venue was improper. As the ruling rightly notes:

In this case the Article was researched, written for and published in a United Kingdom newspaper and published on a general news website that did not focus on Maryland. The Article was uploaded by MailOne staff in London and MailOne staff in New York posted the Article to the U.S. homepage of MailOnline. No reporter or editor traveled to Maryland in the course of reporting, editing, or publishing the Article.... There are no advertising or business acts conducted by MMI that were purposefully directed to Maryland. Further there is nothing about the parties that connects the case against MMI to Maryland -- MMI does not have an office in Maryland, Plaintiff does not live in Maryland, and the witnesses are not located in Maryland. It would be unreasonable as a matter of constitutional due process for this Court to exert jurisdiction over MMI or MailOnline in the State of Maryland.

Much of the rest of the ruling goes through the arguments brought forth for why Maryland was the proper venue -- including things like having targeted advertising for visitors in Maryland, and having other stories that were local to Maryland -- and disposes of them one by one. None of it stuck.

Of course, on Monday, Harder filed a brand new lawsuit on behalf of Melania Trump against the Daily Mail... in NY state court. The complaint here is much more fleshed out than the original complaint in the Maryland case. The press has mainly pounced on one specific claim in the new lawsuit, about how the original article by the Daily Mail could have harmed Trump's ability to cash in on a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity. From the lawsuit:

As a result of Defendant's publication of defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff's brand has lost significant value, and major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her have been lost and/or substantially impacted. The economic damage to Plaintiff's brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online's defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars. Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered mutli-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

That's definitely a lot more fleshed out and specific than what was in the original complaint in Maryland (which was filed before the election):

Plaintiff is involved in many business ventures involving the licensing of her name and likeness, and relying upon her valuable reputation, and the defamatory publication foreseeably caused substantial damage to her business, career, reputation and her actual and prosepctive economic relationships. As a result of the conduct of Daily Mail, Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.

Of course, what changed between the first complaint and the second complaint was Melania's husband becoming President of the United States. Thus, the clear implication -- that many in the media are making -- is that the "once in a lifetime" opportunity is to somehow cash in on the Presidency. Of course, I do wonder how much damage to her brand could really be attributed to those articles, which have since been deleted, seeing as her reputation -- and the fact that she will now be "one of the most photographed women in the world" -- certainly seems to have massively boosted her reputation and massively increased her areas of opportunity if she does choose to cash in (i.e., it seems that she might have had a stronger case if she had not become First Lady). Separately, in an era where people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have become massive licensing juggernauts, I'm curious how much damage the Daily Mail reports could actually do to potential brand/licensing deals.

Either way, Harder and Trump will continue pushing forward in their lawsuit against the Daily Mail, just in New York, rather than Maryland. And, yes, if you were wondering, New York has an unfortunately weak anti-SLAPP law.


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  • icon
    Phoenix84 (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 3:36pm

    So how does one actually enforce a lawsuit against a foreign entity when filed in the country they are *not* in?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      The 2nd italicized paragraph mentions "MailOne staff in New York posted the Article to the U.S. homepage of MailOnline," so it looks like they may have a NY office where they can be served.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:34pm

      Re:

      It's actually quite common. *IF* a court will hear it and issue a Judgement, about all it really does is block any Visa applications the loser of the suit tries to get to enter the country where they owe the money.

      Not a winning strategy, but, as I said, it's fairly common. Canadian drivers getting into accidents in the US and vice versa.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:45pm

        Re: Re:

        You don't need a visa to go between Canada and the US though. It's more about CBP and being denied access/billed/arrested at the border. I've heard of cases where someone arrives at the airport, goes through customs, and then gets detained, presented with a bill for outstanding civil fees, and they either have to permanently leave the country immediately on their own coin, or pay.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 8:37pm

        Re: Re:

        So if they lose, the Mail can't get a credit card? Doesn't sound so bad.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:02pm

    A lawsuit against the Daily Mail would have to be filed in Britain, since it is a British. British newspapers are only subject to British laws.

    Just like when Glenn Greenwald, who wrote the story after Ed Snowden made all those leaks, The Guardian is a British newspaper, so it, too, is only subject to Brtish laws.

    American laws do not apply to foreign newspaper. If Melania wants to win, she should file her suit in a British court, since the Daily Mail is a British newspaper, and is, therefore, only subject to the jurisdiction of British courts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 5:04pm

      Re:

      A lawsuit against the Daily Mail would have to be filed in Britain, since it is a British. British newspapers are only subject to British laws.

      A few points:

      1. This isn't true. You can file a lawsuit against the company and then potentially seek to enforce it overseas if the company were truly just overseas.

      2. The DailyMail has an office in NY and therefore is also an American company, even if it's based in the UK.

      3. They have ALSO filed a lawsuit in the UK.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 5:35pm

        Re: Re:

        You are correct mr masnick.. They are subject of jurisdiction where they do business (sell their crap in nyc newsstands) or even can be found without even doing business itself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:13pm

      Re:

      Funny thing is, it would very probably be much easier to pursue in the UK, period.

      Only Harder would then have to split his potential bucks and win with someone else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:09pm

    As for "targeted advertising", that would depend on how many users use AdBlock. I use AdBlock to prevent advertising from placing malware on my computer.

    And ads by IP address do not necessarily mean ads were seen by someone in Maryland. I can use the 4G on my cell phone, and it will think I am in the Midwest, based on my IP address, when I am in California.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:11pm

    You know how the saying goes

    'If at first you don't succeed, file file again.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 4:48pm

    I think the bigger threat to Melania's Trump's brand is from her husband, the POTUS, Donald Trump.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 7 Feb 2017 @ 5:21pm

    Double Jeopardy: Charles Harder's Stand-Up Routine

    What is SLAPP-stick?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 7 Feb 2017 @ 6:02pm

    Is it true?

    Well is it? Because if it's a lie then she has every right to sue. I dislike both of them BTW, but I wouldn't want an article accusing me of being a prostitute.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 7 Feb 2017 @ 6:25pm

    "In his offices, Harder keeps charts mapping the differences in libel and privacy laws throughout the country. He also has become a pro on where to strategically file cases. "

    Sounds like Charles Harder is the ambulance chasing sleazebag type of lawyer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2017 @ 9:37pm

    Vexacious litigant?

    I've seen where a home owner trying to get their insurance to pay up on a loss had them found to be a vexatious litigant. I wonder what it would take to get Charles Harder found to be in that class. Pretty much seemed to be a slam dunk for the insurance agency - from time of filing to time of finding was less than 72 hours. I didn't see the plaintiff do anything out of the ordinary. I'll see if it's on line but it was many years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    iainnahearadh, 8 Feb 2017 @ 2:43am

    The redress of wrongs

    The problem with the anti-Trump brigade here is that Melania Trump was seriously defamed.
    Thre is no argument here in that regard.

    Melania Trump was not and has never been a prostitute, high end or otherwise.

    I am stunned that cowards who think that the First Amendment excuses Slander, Libel, and threats of force and fear would attack her, her family and her children, simply because elections have consequences, need to rethink their attitudes.

    I can guarantee, were you on the receiving end of the same sort of garbage, then you would also retaliate in much the same fashion.

    Any attempt to deny any such right of reply, just shows the moral and ethic cowardice evident in this article and the original slander.

    I like Techdirt, I have lurked herein often, as it has many interesting and informative articles and opinions.

    This isn't one of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 2:53am

      Re: The redress of wrongs

      Can you link to the fictional version of Techdirt you're reading that argues that she should get no right of reply? It seems to differ from the one here in the present reality.

      All that's being argued here is that her lawyer is clearly trying to file suit in multiple locations that are not where the people who wrote the offending article reside, and that it's right for this venue shopping to not be working so far. If the suit against the Daily Mail's UK headquarters was the only one being attempted, this article wouldn't exist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 8:03am

      Re: The redress of wrongs

      Actually despite your assertion otherwise, these is an arguemmet. Hence the lawsuit. It's almost as if we pay an entire class of people to manage arguments professionally in some sort of neutral venue, with a set of rules and regulations And I know this is getting quite technical here; but please bear with me. Penalties for the loser of said arguement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Another coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 12:09am

        Re: Re: The redress of wrongs

        Actually you are wrong, They blogger were already found guilty of libel. So according to the court and law, it was definitely libel, it a fact and not up for discussion.

        The daily mail got away on a technicality, but the fact that it was libel is not in question. There is no argument about that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:00am

    The Feminist version of the American Dream

    If a guy with a newspaper round can become a milionnaire, why can't a model/escort become a President('s wife)?

    It's all part of the American Dream. Equal Rites and all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:13am

    Shiva Ayyadurai

    I totally missed the article about a "low-caste, dark-skinned, Indian" suing Techdirt.

    Don't mistake my comment as being racist, I only quote how Shiva describes himself so he won't sue me too! However, it is my opinion that "low-class, pompous, child" is a much better, more fitting, description of Shiva but your opinion might differ so don't mistake that as a statement of fact.

    Has Shiva ever accomplished anything of importance in his adult life or is his greatest achievement writing a computer program when he was 14?

    https://mobile.twitter.com/va_shiva/status/706670699713335297

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:25am

    Most people who forum shop a defamation suit try to get into England. Why in the world are the Trumps mucking about in Maryland and New York?

    SLAPP is largely irrelevant against a deep-pocketed media entity used to getting sued. But access to a forum where truth is no defense? You won't find that anywhere in the U.S.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul, 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:25am

    Defaming a famous person

    In the US he has to show malice because his allegations for damage admit she is.

    He filed in the US to obtain discovery that he can then use in the U.K. action - the U.K. Does not require malice to be proven and in fact imposes the burden upon the defendant to show truth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:18pm

    Much of the rest of the ruling goes through the arguments brought forth for why Maryland was the proper venue -- including things like having targeted advertising for visitors in Maryland

    Holy cow what a precedent that could have set for all manner of things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 1:11pm

    Outrageous ruling. How can they possibly describe the Daily Mail as a "newspaper"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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