LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A judge has moved NCAA basketball official John Higgins’s federal lawsuit against Kentucky Sports Radio and its operators, Matt Jones and Drew Franklin, from Nebraska to Kentucky.
U.S. District Judge Robert Rossiter ruled Friday that the Nebraska court “clearly lacks” jurisdiction over the defendants and the case will be transferred to federal court in the Eastern Kentucky district.
Higgins sued the University of Kentucky fan media outlet in federal court in Nebraska last October, claiming he and his family were harmed when his personal and business information was shared online and on the radio after the University of Kentucky men's basketball team lost to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament in 2017.
As a result, Higgins argued, fans gave his business negative reviews and made threats to him and his loved ones.
Attorneys on behalf of KSR, Jones and Franklin argued they have no contacts in Nebraska and did not target any “activities towards readers or listeners in the state.”
In his ruling, Rossiter noted that Jones and Franklin do not live in Nebraska and while KSR is available in the state, that is not enough to satisfy the requirements for jurisdiction.
In addition, Rossiter seemed to indicate that Higgins’ case was not solid. He wrote that “most, if not all, of the damaging actions stated in the Complaint were not performed by any of the defendants but by third parties.”
Jones and Franklin criticized Higgins’ officiating, mentioned his business – which the judge noted had appeared previously in a Sports Illustrated article – and shared a video of the referee’s performance, Rossiter wrote.
The judge said that while Higgins has claimed KSR incited UK fans, "posting news and describing it as 'amusing', no matter how much it may be in poor taste or have caused harm, is not the same as actively soliciting such behavior.”
“... While the anonymous actions are, at best, reprehensible and cowardly, none of those actors are parties to this lawsuit,” according to Rossiter.
However, Rossiter did not dismiss the lawsuit, saying he would leave that decision up to the Kentucky court.
In a statement released through his attorney Friday, Jones said, "We are pleased with the favorable ruling from the federal judge in Nebraska."
In his affidavit filed previously, Jones said he “never encouraged anyone to defame, harm, or interfere with the Plaintiffs or their business in anyway shape or form. … In fact, on the radio show broadcast, I advised people to not take the actions described in” the lawsuit.
Franklin also said in his affidavit that he has never "made any agreement with, or made any offer to, anyone to harm, harass, defame, or interfere" with Higgins or his family or business.
The lawsuit claimed that while Jones told fans to stop this conduct, he read many of the comments directed at Higgins online on the radio.
The comments Jones did make – including “Oh my goodness, you know what his roofing company name is? Rooferees” – were “targeted” to the audience in Kentucky, not Nebraska, the motion to dismiss argued.
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