Be careful what you name your Wi-Fi network.
As is the case with one Kootenai County family, it could land you in Idaho's Supreme Court.
In a bizarre case, Dennis and Wanda Irish, the former mayor of Harrison, filed a defamation suit against Jeffrey and Dona Hall. The reason? After years of tension between the two families, the Halls changed their home Wi-Fi network's name to read “[D]ennis & [W]anda Irish stocking u2" and also renamed their business's Wi-Fi to a derogatory name.
The history between the families goes back several years, according to the Idaho Supreme Court opinion. Wanda Irish was elected mayor in 2010. The Hall family, also of Harrison, owns a restaurant and resort called the Gateway Marina. Jeffrey Hall served on Harrison's City Council.
The Halls' boat and trailer were towed from a public easement near the marina in 2012. Jeffrey Hall called the mayor eight times in an hour, according to documents, and accused her of being the person behind towing the vehicles. Irish denied any wrongdoing. Hall then proceeded to place posters in his own vehicle reading "MAYOR IRISH LIED!" and "MAYOR IRISH LIES!"
The story gets stranger.
In 2013, the Halls reported to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office that Dennis Irish was stalking Dona Hall after he and a business partner drove past her on a public road. He was cited for stalking, though a prosecutor later dismissed the charge.
Fast-forward to 2015, when the Wi-Fi network naming came to light.
After another dispute between the families, the Halls changed the Wi-Fi network of the Gateway Marina to read "Mayor Wanda Irish Terrorist." Wanda Irish's attorney sent a cease and desist letter to the Halls; the Halls responded by changing the network to "she really is a [t]errorist.” They then changed their home network's name to “[D]ennis and [W]anda Irish stocking u2" and later to “Move Irish.”
The Irish family filed a defamation suit in District Court in August 2015 against the Halls. The Halls filed a motion for a direct verdict, which was eventually granted. A direct verdict is an instance in which a judge enters a ruling because he or she believes "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion."
In December 2016, the court ruled in favor of the Halls, saying that the Wi-Fi network names "were published, but that they were opinions, exaggeration, and hyperbole, and as such not defamatory."
The Irish family appealed the order granting the direct verdict, hoping to have jurors rule on the case. The appeal made its way to the Idaho Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the state's highest court released an opinion stating, "It was for the jury, rather than the judge, to determine whether the statement '[D]ennis and [W]anda Irish stocking u2' was defamatory as alleged by the Irishes. Thus, we vacate the district court’s granting of the Halls’ motion for a directed verdict."
The opinion sends the lawsuit back to the district court for further consideration. It's unclear when it will be revisited.