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.

Filed Under: mandy palmucci, material support, section 230, william orrick
Companies: 1-800-law-firm, excolo law, twitter


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 6:36am

    If only there were ethics rules in the legal system that would actually punish these coffin chasers to a level that fleecing the grieving wouldn't cover it, then they might stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pixelation, 22 Apr 2019 @ 7:25am

      Re:

      My guess is, once judges start recognizing the names of these firms/lawyers on lawsuits, they will look for any reason to kick them to the curb.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re:

        I have very little faith in that happening...

        Look how long Prenda was able to carry on, even when it was clear to everyone else they were scammers Judges still took their cases and treated them like they hadn't pulled fast ones before.

        IIRC the words of Judge Wright were still being passed around when Judge Howell decided that suddenly a case involving joinder issues & if her court was even the right place could carry on & authorized thousands of names be turned over.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2019 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      Could a law firm be declared a vexatious litigant? Because that would certainly send a strong message that their antics are no longer welcome...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        cpt kangarooski, 22 Apr 2019 @ 9:23am

        Re: Re:

        It’s rare but not unprecedented for particular attorneys to not be allowed to file unless another attorney of good standing is willing to also sign the filing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 22 Apr 2019 @ 6:40am

    Illustrious antonym

    whatever's the opposite of "illustrious"

    Infamous

    https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/illustrious

    Alternatives - dubious, reprehensible

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 7:19am

      Re: Illustrious antonym

      I'd go with "ignominious" myself...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 22 Apr 2019 @ 8:09am

      Re: Illustrious antonym

      "Infamous"

      • MORE than famous.
        He's not just famous, he's IN-famous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2019 @ 2:15pm

        Re: Re: Illustrious antonym

        Yeah, that's not what that word means.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 2:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: Illustrious antonym

          ...it's a reference to The Three Amigos.

          My God, can we go one article without someone in the comments "correcting" someone for making a joke?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 7:42am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Illustrious antonym

            Remember: Sarcasm doesn't travel well in pure-text without clear reference markers such as a "</sarc>"

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Thad (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 8:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Illustrious antonym

              This wasn't sarcasm, it was a movie quote.

              But to the point of sarcasm: I've seen people try to argue with the guy talking about "delicious, delicious paint chips." The other day somebody tried to argue with somebody who said he'd be happy to pay $150 a month for YouTube because "think of the children." At some point, it's not the fault of the poster for not making the sarcasm obvious enough, it's the fault of the reader for not being able to pick up on incredibly obvious sarcasm.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 9:14pm

      Re: Illustrious antonym

      It's a matter of degree for that antonym. Myself, I'd elect to use "notorious" in this case.

      sumgai

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 8:45am

    Because when I need a lawyer, I am gonna do my research and obviously find the most credible lawyers at 1-800-LAW-FIRM. WHAT THEY DO IS IN THEIR PHONE NUMBER!!! Did these people go to 1-800-TRUMP-ED?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2019 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      Obviously the people filing these lawsuits have not done their research, but so what? Maybe these are the only lawyers will to take such obviously bad cases. But as long as clients find them (getting a memorable phone number into the news frequently can help) and are willing to pay...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Roddy (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 8:54am

    :3

    One has to wonder just how long this ambulance chaser law firm can start afloat with such an impressive losing streak. It doesn't sound like a sustainable business strategy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      norahc, 22 Apr 2019 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      But all they need is one victory to establish precedent, after which they will have more leverage for settlements and paydays.

      The number of losses means nothing if they get that one victory.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Roddy (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re:

        The losses are effectively written into law at this point since multiple circuit appeals court have published opinions on them. Those losses are binding case law, and each one makes the next case exponentially harder. Even if they got a victory, it's virtually guaranteed to be overturned on appeal.

        Precedent is already established against them, and they're everything to blame for that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          norahc, 22 Apr 2019 @ 1:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          True, but that assumes they're interested in actually litigating the cases instead of collecting the settlement payday.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Roddy (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 7:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            And for any other type of company, it might stand a chance of working. However, the law is quite clearly on the side of the social media companies here, and they've demonstrated quite thoroughly that they have no problem fighting the lawsuits as far up the chain as they need to. There hasn't been any remote possibility of a "settlement payday" in years.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OA (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 9:01am

    Try, try again

    In past situations, I've had different suspicions about the motivations for seemingly frivolous litigation. Courts often act as a single point of failure. Bombard courts with similar suits and find a weak spot, a way to tailor suits to get past the rejections or even adjust the court's POV or posture on a subject matter. Like a body of water slowly eroding a natural dam, I imagine it has happened in other situations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 10:06am

    Sanction these lawyers

    I've said it before with stories like this and I'll said it again:

    The lawyers filing this case either:
    1) Don't know the law saying Twitter can't be held responsible for user content.
    2) Does know, but chooses to ignore previous case law and bill the client.

    Either way, these lawyers should start getting some kind of sanctions thrown at them. Disbarment may be too strict, but how about a mark on their record to show other judges that the law firm can't be trusted to follow the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2019 @ 1:59pm

      Re: Sanction these lawyers

      how about a mark on their record to show other judges that the law firm can't be trusted to follow the law.

      Their track record suggests judges don't need any help to figure this out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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