This is a good question. I would default to the jurisdiction where the plaintiff can be found invoking the long arm statute of the state or the jurisdiction where the defendant can be found. However, the internet would appear to open the door to just about any jurisdiction where the defamatory statement was published. Some of my learned brethren would probably be able to expand on my answer.
Legal disclaimer: I am not your attorney and we have no attorney/client relationship. This response is submitted for informational purposes only. This is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be taken as such. Anyone considering the above referenced situation should always consult an attorney within your jurisdiction before taking any action based on this, or any other information.
Simply put, you can sue in California; however, you would most likely be confronted by a motion to quash service from the Georgia defendant for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The court will then determine the issue by using what essentially is called an "effects" test to determine whether or not it can exercise personal jurisdiction over the person in Georgia. The "effects test" can only be satisfied if the plaintiff can point to contacts which demonstrate that the defendant expressly aimed its tortious conduct at the forum (i.e., California), and thereby made the forum the focal point of the tortious activity.
Without going into the legal mumbo jumbo of all of it, this is a fact intensive question that is dependent upon many factors, including the type of website the defamatory statement appears on, whether there were multiple statements, and many other questions that you would need to seek counsel for.
I salute Mr. Cartee’s thorough answer. I would add that I believe the Internet has changed many of the precepts about venue and jurisdiction. You should consult a CA lawyer who has expertise in litigating Internet matters.
DISCLAIMERâ€”This answer is for informational purposes only under the AVVO system, its terms and conditions. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship. I am admitted only in California. (Bryant) Keith Martin sbbizlaw.com
I am handling a matter involving internet defamation at the moment. The consensus in federal courts seems to be that venue is proper in the jurisdiction from which the alleged defamatory statements were generated. And as one attorney has already stated, being in GA might be a whole lot better than being in CA for something like this.
The foregoing is not legal advice nor is it in any manner whatsoever meant to create or impute an attorney/client relationship.
You've already received very good information regarding how to think through where the suit must be filed.
The other issue, however, is which state's law will be applied when considering the merits of your defamation claim: California's defamation law or Georgia's defamation law? This "choice of law" issue needs to be thought through very early on because the two state's laws are significantly different [for example, to receive punitive damages under Georgia's law the allegedly defamed person must first request that the defendant retract the allegedly defamatory statement]. I would suggest that you focus your search for an attorney on a Georgia-licensed trial attorney with experience in federal court defamation suits. Good luck.
The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.