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Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 1983, Argued ; March 20, 1984, Decided

No. 82-485


 [*772]   [***796]   [**1477]  JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Petitioner Kathy Keeton sued respondent Hustler Magazine, Inc., and other defendants [****6]  in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, alleging jurisdiction over her libel complaint by reason of diversity of citizenship. The District Court dismissed her suit because it believed that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbade the application of New Hampshire's long-arm statute in order to acquire personal jurisdiction over respondent. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed, 682 F.2d 33 (1982), summarizing its concerns with the statement that "the New Hampshire tail is too small to wag so large an out-of-state dog." Id., at 36. We granted certiorari, 459 U.S. 1169 (1983), and we now reverse.

Petitioner Keeton is a resident of New York. Her only connection with New Hampshire is the circulation there of copies of a magazine that she assists in producing. The magazine bears petitioner's name in several places crediting her with editorial and other work. Respondent Hustler Magazine, Inc., is an Ohio corporation, with its principal place of business in California. Respondent's contacts with New Hampshire consist of the sale of some 10,000 [****7]  to 15,000 copies of Hustler Magazine in that State each month. See App. 81a-86a. Petitioner claims to have been libeled in five separate issues of respondent's magazine published between September 1975 and May 1976. 2

 [*773]  The Court of Appeals, in its opinion affirming the District Court's dismissal of petitioner's complaint, held that petitioner's lack of contacts with New Hampshire rendered the State's interest in redressing the tort of libel to petitioner too attenuated for an assertion of personal jurisdiction over respondent. The Court of Appeals observed that the "single publication rule" ordinarily [****8]  applicable in multistate libel cases would require it to award petitioner "damages caused in all states" should she prevail in her suit, even though the bulk of petitioner's alleged injuries had been sustained outside New Hampshire. 682 F.2d, at 35. 3 The  [***797]  court also stressed New Hampshire's unusually long (6-year) limitations period for libel actions. New Hampshire was the only State where petitioner's suit would not have been time-barred when it was filed.  Under these circumstances, the Court of Appeals concluded that it would be "unfair" to assert jurisdiction over respondent. New Hampshire has a minimal interest in applying its unusual statute of limitations to, and awarding damages for, injuries to a nonresident occurring outside the State, particularly since petitioner suffered such a small proportion  [**1478]  of her total claimed injury within the State. Id., at 35-36.

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465 U.S. 770 *; 104 S. Ct. 1473 **; 79 L. Ed. 2d 790 ***; 1984 U.S. LEXIS 40 ****; 52 U.S.L.W. 4346; 10 Media L. Rep. 1405



Disposition:  682 F.2d 33, reversed and remanded.


Magazine, libel, contacts, statute of limitations, damages, forum state, single publication rule, personal jurisdiction, libel action, nonresident, multistate, circulation, cause of action, unfairness, resident, copies

Torts, Remedies, Damages, General Overview, Intentional Torts, Defamation, Libel, Business & Corporate Law, Foreign Corporations, Civil Procedure, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Procedural Matters, Conflict of Law, Place of Injury