Another Attempt To Tie Twitter To Terrorist Acts And Another Dismissal With Prejudice
from the Definition-Of-Insanity,-PLLC dept
“A series of lawsuits,” the court calls it. This is the ongoing work of 1-800-LAW-FIRM and Excolo Law — two firms that specialize in bringing losing lawsuits to federal courts. It’s a series of lawsuits and a series of losses. An unbroken string of dismissals at both the district and appellate levels — all in response to the firms’ attempts to hold social media companies responsible for the acts of terrorists.
Mandy Palmucci — a victim of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France — filed an incredibly long lawsuit (121 pages!) last year with the assistance of these two law firms. She needn’t have bothered. This one joins the pile of rejected complaints passing through the federal court system. (h/t John Roddy)
The only thing notable about this latest loss is how irritated Judge William H. Orrick seems to be with these lawsuits that keep landing in his court. Handling one of these lawsuits twice appears to have dug deep into Judge Orrick’s reserves of patience. From the decision [PDF]:
In two decisions – Fields v. Twitter, Inc., 217 F. Supp. 3d 1116 (N.D. Cal. 2016) and Fields v. Twitter, Inc., 200 F. Supp. 3d 964 (N.D. Cal. 2016) – I concluded that surviving family members of government contractors killed by an ISIS-identified terrorist could not pursue claims for direct liability under the ATA (or related state law claims) because there was no proximate cause “between Twitter’s provision of accounts to ISIS and the deaths of” plaintiffs’ family members. Id. at 1127. I also held that Twitter was immune from liability for its provision of services to users (even terrorist users) under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)).
The judge points out the Appeals Court reached the same conclusions, but more expeditiously. It decided the plaintiffs’ “proximate cause” claims were so weak it didn’t even need to discuss Section 230 immunity.
Then the judge sends a not-too-subtle message to the law firms pushing these baseless lawsuits
Following the Fields decisions, materially similar direct liability claims have been rejected by numerous judges in this District and elsewhere. See Clayborn v. Twitter, Inc., 17-CV-06894- LB, 2018 WL 6839754 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 31, 2018); Copeland v. Twitter, Inc., 352 F. Supp. 3d 965, 17-CV-5851-WHO (N.D. Cal. 2018); Taamneh v. Twitter, Inc., 343 F. Supp. 3d 904, 17-CV04107-EMC (N.D. Cal. 2018); Cain v. Twitter Inc., 17-CV-02506-JD, 2018 WL 4657275 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 24, 2018); Gonzalez v. Google, Inc., 335 F. Supp. 3d 1156, 16-CV-03282-DMR (N.D. Cal. 2018) (Gonzalez II); Gonzalez v. Google, Inc., 282 F. Supp. 3d 1150 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2017) (Gonzalez I); Pennie v. Twitter, Inc., 281 F. Supp. 3d 874, 17-CV-00230-JCS (N.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2017); see also Crosby v. Twitter, Inc., 303 F. Supp. 3d 564 (E.D. Mich. March 30, 2018).
Given the short and whatever’s the opposite of “illustrious” history of these lawsuits, the judge asked the plaintiff why he should be bothered to allow the case to proceed.
In light of the similarities between Palmucci’s theories of liability and factual allegations here and those in Copeland et al v. Twitter, Inc. et al., No. 17-CV-05851-WHO and Fields v. Twitter, No. 16-CV-0213-WHO, I issued an Order on November 30, 2018, requiring plaintiff to “file a supplemental brief not exceeding five pages identifying what material facts differentiate this case from the facts pleaded in Copeland, Fields” and two other decisions from this District, Cain v. Twitter Inc., No. 17-CV-02506-JD and Gonzalez v. Google, Inc., 16-CV-03282-DMR.
And received, “Ummmmmm… because?” for a reply:
Palmucci was given an opportunity to explain why – in light of the caselaw identified above – her case should continue. She declined, essentially admitting that no additional facts could be alleged that might state her claims under the ATA or state law.
Dismissed with prejudice. That means there will be no re-filing of this lawsuit. Just the inevitable appeal — one that will be headed to an appeals court that’s already found these lawsuits baseless. Another rejection awaits, and a bit more of the courts’ time will be wasted by a couple of opportunistic law firms that have discovered a way to make money without actually being of any use to their clients.