EU Adviser Hashes Out Jurisdiction Rules for Defamation Cases

(CN) – An EU high court adviser said Thursday an Estonian company claiming it was defamed on the internet by a Swedish trade group ought to file its lawsuit in Sweden, where the bulk of the damage to its reputation likely occurred.

The advisory opinion by Advocate General Michal Bobek seeks to clarify the European Union’s jurisdictional rules, which typically require parties to sue in the defendant’s member state. But Bolagsupplysnigen, headquartered in Estonia but doing the bulk of its business in Sweden, argues a court-carved exception allowing parties to sue where their “center of interests” are justifies its filing in Estonia.

Bobek said Bolagsupplysnigen’s action against Swedish trade group Svensk Handel – which placed Bolagsupplysnigen on its website’s blacklist for dealing in “lies and deceit” – should be heard in Sweden, since “the place where the harm occurred is likely to be where the reputation of the person was mostly strongly hit.”

So while Bolagsupplysnigen’s management, economic activity, development and personnel departments are all located in Estonia – all factors Bobek said should be considered – in defamation cases a company’s “center of interest” is more likely to be where the injury is felt the strongest.

If the Estonian court determines Bolagsupplysnigen makes no money and has no professional contacts in Estonia, it should toss the case there and allow Bolagsupplysnigen to sue Svensk Handel in Sweden, Bobek said.

The adviser also acknowledged that companies in particular may have centers of interest in more than one EU state, in which case it’s up to the plaintiff to decide where it wants to file. However, he also noted that once the decision is made and the case is pending, the plaintiff is barred from bringing the same lawsuit elsewhere.

Bobek’s opinion is not binding on the European Court of Justice, which has begun its deliberations in the case.

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