As a follow-up to the “Sunshine State: No longer a “Happy” place for copyright trolls” article I wrote on Tuesday, I was surprised to see that one of Dunlap Weaver, PLLC’s cases — this one having 3,932 John Doe Defendants — survived UNSCATHED. It blows my mind that this case is still alive!
Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-3,932 (Case No. 2:11-cv-00545) in the Middle District of Florida was filed back in September, 2011, and our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC has been tracking the case since its inception. Jeffrey Weaver of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (“DGW”) filed this lawsuit after his lead attorney, Nicholas Kurtz left the firm to do who-knows-what. Having a copyright troll / mass bittorrent extortion outfit with no lead attorney to fight the cases must have been a disaster for the firm, and so DGW partner Jeffrey Weaver took the case.
Now, over two years and 293 docket entries later (yes, watching this docket will max out your PACER payment every time you load the page), the case hangs in limbo. On December 26th, 2012, Judge Sheri Polster Chappell denied Nu Image, Inc. more time to name and serve defendants. We would think this would be the death nail for the case, but for some reason, the judge has not yet dismissed it. (I can only assume this means that she is giving Weaver one last chance to prove that he is not a copyright troll, meaning that he actually has an interest in protecting his client Nu Image’s interests and going after the accused defendants.) I have seen this firm name defendants before (even out of spite or vengeance when a certain attorney insulted them publicly [no, that wasn't me that time]), so while I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull out an “Ace” and name hundreds of defendants, I really don’t think this will happen for the following reason:
DUNLAP WEAVER, PLLC is lacking local counsel across the country. While many of us attorneys have been building our local counsel networks across the U.S. (both on the defense side and on the plaintiff copyright trolls’ side), this law firm appears to have been stagnant, perhaps suffering from a bad economy and a failed copyright trolling business model. They were the first, the biggest, and the oldest copyright trolls, but when they fired a number of paralegals who [unbeknownst to the partners at Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC] were doing most of the “scare” work and settlement negotiations for them, and when their lead attorney jumped ship, I expect they received an unexpected dip in their settlement rates (more like a fall-off-a-cliff wake-up call).
As a result of lacking a significant local counsel network of attorneys, they cannot sue the 3,000+ defendants in their home states. And, of the 3,000+ defendants, very few of them live in Florida. Thus, they are no doubt experiencing some legal logistical issues. This doesn’t mean that they cannot go after defendants. It simply means that they haven’t gotten their act together to do so, and that they may never get organized in time to do so.
As a funny side note, I wanted to point out that “John Steele” is the U.S. District Judge for this case. Not the same John Steele that we know from Prenda Law Inc., but another John Steele.
In sum, I am watching this case carefully because I would like to see it go bust like the others. I am dumbfounded why this case wasn’t killed with the others.