PHILADELPHIA – A Massachusetts lawyer accused of defaming a North Carolina man and Pennsylvania knife manufacturer and seller through his online commentary, is attempting to have the case against him dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.
On April 3, defendant Anthony F. Sculimbrene of Fitchburg, Mass. filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit initiated by Anthony L. Marfione of Henderson County, N.C. and Microtech Knives, Inc. of Bradford, claiming the plaintiffs failed to establish jurisdiction against him through minimum contacts to Pennsylvania.
“Defendant provides an affidavit in support of his motion to dismiss. Therein, he avers that: He has never lived or worked in Pennsylvania, owned real estate, had a bank account, owned any tangible or intangible property in Pennsylvania, conducted business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, paid taxes or employed any persons in Pennsylvania,” Sculimbrene’s motion read.
The motion added, “Plaintiffs allege that the fact that defendant posted a blog about a Pennsylvania company is sufficient to establish minimum contacts. However, Pennsylvania courts have determined that the existence of an internet site that reaches a particular forum and allegedly does harm there does not meet the necessary threshold for personal jurisdiction. Instead, personal jurisdiction over an internet site is determined by the level of activity the internet site has with the forum state.
Sculimbrene’s motion explained the Jan. 20, 2017 blog post that is the subject of the lawsuit “does not identify, mention or otherwise target the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, does not identify Microtech’s place of residence, direct its comments to Pennsylvania readers or identify by state the residents of persons who commented on the blog.”
“Therefore, while defendant’s website is accessible to users in foreign jurisdictions, that fact does not provide the contact necessary for personal jurisdiction. Here, where the site simply posts information and analysis of different knives available to consumers for purchase, but does not sell those knives, personal jurisdiction cannot be established. As such, this forum lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant,” according to the defendant’s motion.
Marfione and Microtech Knives filed suit on Jan. 31 in the McKean County Court of Common Pleas, against Anthony F. Sculimbrene of Fitchburg, Mass. Sculimbrene removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Feb. 17. An amended version of the complaint was filed on March 13.
“Sculimbrene has uttered and published and distributed defamatory statements as to plaintiff Marfione. In particular, Sculimbrene has stated that Marfione has stolen designs and committed theft of intellectual property, that Marfione is lazy and greedy, that it is Marfione’s nature to steal, that Marfione is a 'snake-in-the-grass' (meaning that he is a deceitful and treacherous person), that Marfione has been adjudicated as having infringed intellectual property rights of others, that Marfione’s actions are comparable to those of a notorious convicted murderer named Jared Lee Loughner, that Marfione declined an express invitation by Sculimbrene to comment on the statements [contained in Exhibit A] and that Sculimbrene’s statements about Marfione have the imprimatur of official action,” the plaintiffs’ lawsuit says.
“The above statements by defendant Sculimbrene have exposed plaintiff Marfione to ridicule and contempt, and have injured him in his business and trade of knifemaking; and injured his reputation. The above statements by defendant Sculimbrene were made recklessly and in conscious disregard for the harm to plaintiffs,” the lawsuit adds.
The suit says Sculimbrene had intent to cause financial loss to Microtech by stating willfully and wrongfully that “Microtech wrongfully used a knife design, that Microtech committed theft of intellectual property by releasing a scaled-down version of a knife previously produced by Microtech, that Microtech “did real harm” to the “knife business” (meaning, the knife industry) and that Microtech ripped off a competitor.”
For counts of defamation, commercial disparagement and equitable relief, the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages in excess of $50,000, punitive damages, interest and costs where appropriate, to remove the defamatory and disparaging statements from public access, plus other relief as appropriate.
The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel C. Lawson of Microtech Knives, Inc., in Bradford.
The defendant is represented by Rochelle R. Koerbel of Blumling & Gusky, in Pittsburgh.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case 1:17-cv-00046
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org