It was nigh on a year ago that we first covered the defamation lawsuit brought against Snipers Hide by a disgruntled ‘custom’ rifle builder calling itself Tactical Rifles. If you may recall, Marc Soulie of Spartan Precision Rifles posted this warts-and-all Youtube review of a Tactical Rifles tactical rifle on Sniper’s Hide, after which all hell broke loose. Soulie’s review was basically all warts (my box-stock 700 BDL was probably put together better than this ‘custom’ rifle) and Tactical Rifles’ butt-hurt response was to sue him, Snipers Hide, and SH owner Frank Galli in a Florida federal court. The case has been dismissed, but this opera ain’t anywhere near over. In fact, the fat lady hasn’t even taken the stage . . .
Tactical Rifles’ lawsuit was dismissed this week by a Florida federal court, but said dismissal was not (in lawyerly terms) ‘on the merits.’ Instead of ruling that Tactical Rifles’ claims were BS as we were hoping, the court ruled that it couldn’t rule on the case at all because it lacked personal jurisdiction over Soulie, Galli and Snipers Hide.
What in blue blazes is personal jurisdiction? While I know that this is a massive oversimplification, personal jurisdiction is the power that a court in State X has to order you around when you don’t live there. This power is based on each state’s ‘long-arm’ jurisdiction statute, in combination with how much contact you have with State X and whether you have purposely availed yourself of its laws. If State X doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over you, you can’t be sued in that state. This is meant to protect you from being sued by people you’ve never met in states you’ve never visited.
Tactical Rifles filed its lawsuits in a Florida federal court, but Soulie lives and works in California and Galli runs Snipers Hide out of Denver, Colorado. In the 20-page order of dismissal, the Tampa federal court concluded that Florida’s long-arm jurisdiction statute does not cover the kind of blog posts and YouTube videos at issue here. The court also noted that, even if Soulie and Galli’s conduct had satisfied the Florida long-arm statute, neither of them do business in Florida nor own property in Florida, and that it would be unconstitutionally burdensome to make them travel to Florida (which Soulie has never even visited, for crying out loud) to defend a lawsuit there.
Therefore Florida has no personal jurisdiction over the defendants, and the case must be dismissed.
The Tampa court also notes, in details that must be humiliating for Tactical Rifles’ lawyers, just how clumsy and inadequate their legal pleadings were. When a court dismisses your case using terms like ‘threadbare recitals,’ ‘bare allegations’ and ‘pleading deficiencies’, it’s probably time to sue your lawyers for malpractice or at least demand a big refund.
The practical upshot of all this is that Tactical Rifles is back to Square Zero in their vendetta against Soulie, Galli and Snipers Hide, but that’s not the end of things. Since the case wasn’t dismissed on the merits, TR is free to re-file its lawsuit in Colorado or California or both.
This would force Galli and Souli to pony up for another round of legal fees, but it might not happen. The Tampa court decision took pains to highlight a host of legal and factual deficiencies that make Tactical Rifles’ case, in the words of Joe Grine’s and my old law professor, “a long reach for the biscuits.”
Some of these defects might be curable, and some might not. At this point in the game, Tactical Rifles might have a better malpractice case against its own legal team than it does against Soulie and Galli and Snipers Hide.
We hope so, but either way we hope this is the last word we’ll ever have to publish about this stupid lawsuit.