LEXINGTON, Ky. (COURIER-JOURNAL) — NCAA basketball official John Higgins' lawsuit against Kentucky Sports Radio has been officially moved to the Eastern District of Kentucky, according to court records.
Attorneys for Higgins previously argued Higgins would "face substantial obstacles to a fair trial in Kentucky," in a brief in opposition to a motion filed by KSR and operators Matt Jones and Drew Franklin to move the suit from a court in Nebraska.
"The Court clearly lacks general jurisdiction over the defendants," Judge Robert Rossiter wrote last month in his conclusion in a memorandum and order. "... none of the defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction in Nebraska. Thus, it is in the interest of justice to transfer the case to a jurisdiction that can obtain personal jurisdiction over each of the defendants."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nebraska in October, alleges KSR and its operators Jones and Franklin caused harm to Higgins' family and his business by sharing Higgins' personal and business information about his company, Weatherguard, online and on radio broadcasts.
The suit calls for an award of damages in excess of $75,000.
Higgins' attorneys argued a fair trial "would be virtually impossible" if transferred to Kentucky.
"After reviewing the Complaint and the affidavits, it is clear that none of the defendants are domiciled in Nebraska or exhibit constant and pervasive affiliations with the state," Judge Rossiter wrote. "While the show is available for download in Nebraska and the Website is accessible in Nebraska, these connections alone are insufficient for general jurisdiction."
Higgins officiated Kentucky's Elite Eight loss to North Carolina in March. There were 19 fouls called on the Wildcats, with four Kentucky starters called for two fouls each in the first half, and 18 on the Tar Heels.
In the days following the game, Higgins received death threats from fans and the social media pages for his business were bombarded with reviews and comments. The lawsuit states Jones and Franklin repeatedly referenced Higgins, his business and the comments and reviews made by fans on radio broadcasts and online stories.
The Sarpy County (Nebraska) Sheriff’s Department decided against any criminal prosecution and forwarded information to the Federal Communications Commission after an investigation.
Attorneys for Jones and Franklin said the defendants "did not purposefully aim any activities" at the state of Nebraska, Omaha-based attorney Michael Cox wrote in the motion to dismiss or transfer. The defendants argued KSR is "aired to the listening audience in Kentucky," even though it can be streamed live online or downloaded as a podcast in Nebraska.
In an affidavit attached to the motion, Jones said only 0.22 percent of the website's traffic has come from Nebraska in 2017. Jones said he "never encouraged anyone to defame, harm, or interfere" the plaintiffs or their business and actually "advised people to not take the actions described."
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