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Montana Supreme Court hears arguments in social media case

Montana Supreme Court University of Montana
Montana Supreme Court hears arguments in social media case
Posted at 4:17 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-01 13:24:51-04

MISSOULA - Every so often, the Montana Supreme Court leaves its chambers in Helena to hear cases across the state. That's what happened on Friday when the Justices heard arguments in Melissa Groo vs. Montana at the University of Montana.

It's a civil procedure case on jurisdiction regarding social media posts.

Triple D Game Farm in the Flathead alleges that defendant Melissa Groo - who is based in New York - used her social media platforms in an effort to shut down the farm and financially harm them.

Groo alleged in District Court that because she was out of state when making the social post, the court did not have any personal jurisdiction.

However, that motion was denied by the Justices, who said Groo used social media to harm a Montana business and target Montanans.

The Montana Courts website provides this overview:

Triple D Game Farm in Flathead County offers the opportunity to photograph wildlife that it maintains at its facility. In July 2020, Heather Keepers, who worked for Triple D, left that employment and moved out of state. In August 2020, she contacted Melissa Groo, a New York wildlife photographer. Keepers alleged that Triple D was mistreating its animals and she asked Groo to help her shut down Triple D.

Groo then used social media to post public messages, send messages to businesses and individuals, and “tag” photographers with remarks that accused Triple D of mistreating its animals and urged the recipients not to patronize Triple D. Groo was not physically present in Montana when she sent these messages, but between one-quarter and one-third of the messages’ recipients were located in Montana.

In January 2022, Triple D sued Groo in Flathead County District Court, claiming that her social media campaign had financially harmed it. Groo moved to dismiss the lawsuit because she alleged the court had no personal jurisdiction over her. The District Court denied Groo’s motion, concluding it had specific jurisdiction over Groo because Groo used social media to target a Montana audience with the intent to put a Montana business out of business and Groo had not proven that exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable.

Groo then petitioned the Montana Supreme Court to assert supervisory control over the District Court. She argues that the court erred in concluding it had jurisdiction over her and it would be unjust to force her to participate in a trial in a forum that lacks personal jurisdiction over her.

The Supreme Court Justices will conference at a later date to reach a decision.