A federal judge is letting a defamation lawsuit against the Huffington Post proceed.
Derrick Evans, a black professor and community activist who lives in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 2019 sued the website and Ashley Feinberg, a writer, for writing and publishing a story that claimed he and his brother helped procure drugs that led to the death of a man in Florida.
Feinberg relied on a single anonymous source for the claim.
The article was about the “party scene” at Brett Kavanaugh’s high school, Georgetown Prep. Kavanaugh was being considered for the Supreme Court when it was published in September 2018. He was later confirmed to the court.
The lawsuit called the statements about Evans “false and defamatory.”
One day after the article was published, HuffPost added a correction, but the correction only served to defame Evans further, according to the suit. The article was later updated again to remove any mention of mention of Evans or the man who died. “This article previously mischaracterized the involvement of individuals in a drug purchase,” it says.
HuffPost and Feinberg sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that Evans couldn’t establish a nexus between his defamation claim and their alleged contacts with Mississippi. They said Evans cannot demonstrate that they have the “minimum contacts” with the state to support jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause.
Defendants also claimed they don’t aim any content toward readers in Mississippi nor do they solicit advertisers who directly target residents there.
But Evans argued that the HuffPost website does frequently post Mississippi-centric stories and that discovery may produce facts that would establish jurisdiction, and U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled this month that the defendants produced no evidence to refute the claim that Evans suffered injury in Mississippi.
“The complaint alleges that Evans suffered injury in Mississippi from defendants’ defamatory statements,” Ozerden said in denying the motion to dismiss. “Although defendants have submitted evidence in support of their motion to dismiss, they have not offered any evidence which refutes this claim.”
A search of the Huffington Post’s website revealed dozens of stories with Mississippi in the headline from recent years.
HuffPost didn’t respond to a request for comment.