Dallas Buyers Club, LLC Texas-based lawsuits in my opinion tell a modern story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun with wings of feathers and wax and got burned. The reason for this is because these cases have caused one Texas federal judge to rule against their fictitious name “John Doe” lawsuits.
There was news today that affects the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases filed here in the Southern District of Texas (TXSD). The news is not only a black eye for the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC attorney, but as a result of today’s news, Dallas Buyers Club, LLC might never again file here in Texas.
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases have been rather docile here in Texas. Until ten days ago, they only filed two cases:
Dallas Buyers Club LLC v. Does 1-31 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00248), and
Dallas Buyers Club LLC v. Does 1-45 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00815).
Strategically, until now, the plaintiff attorney did not have local counsel, and it was almost certain that he would not fly down to Texas to appear for the hearings, so there was really nothing to talk about with these cases. Yes, of course he could have appeared by telephone, but I’ve been at those hearings, and they almost never end well for the absent attorney.
However, here the plaintiff attorney did hire local counsel and ten days ago, they filed Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02218); the case was assigned to Judge Lynn Hughes.
Now I’ve seen Judge Hughes rule in a number of cases. While many Texas judges typically allow bittorent cases to sit on their dockets for months at a time, I don’t think Judge Hughes had any interest in allowing this case to sit for any length of time. My understanding is that Judge Hughes was very aware of the copyright trolling problem from the previous copyright troll adult film cases we were fighting back in 2011-2013, and the new filings by Dallas Buyers Club, LLC across the U.S. was a problem that threatened to turn into a Malibu Media, LLC problem.
My guess is that Judge Hughes immediately identified the “John Does” copyright infringement case [filed by an out-of-state attorney] on his docket as a cookie-cutter copyright troll lawsuit. The complaint even read almost identical to the pornography cases we tried against Prenda Law Inc. and their local counsel Doug McIntyre just two years before this. Within four days, Judge Hughes ordered the plaintiff to identify the defendants, I assume because he was not about to tolerate yet another “John Doe” lawsuit against fictional characters and putative defendants on his docket for months while the attorney shook down each putative defendant for thousands of dollars a piece.
The problem is that the plaintiff did not yet have the names of the putative defendants from the ISPs, and so when ordered to remove the fictional “John Doe” character names, he could only identify them as “Internet User (IU) subscribers having a particular IP address” thinking that would satisfy the judge. It didn’t.
For the rest of the story details, I invite you to read Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article on the case. What I can contribute, however, is that as a result of this case, any Dallas Buyers Club, LLC case filed in this district is ordered to be assigned to Judge Hughes, which suggests that it will die upon arrival. Similarly, moving forward, I suspect that the plaintiff attorney will likely be dismissing all cases which are assigned to Judge Hughes, which will no doubt raise suspicions of not “forum shopping,” but rather, “judge shopping,” a tactic that Prenda Law Inc. got in trouble for exploiting years back.
In sum, starting in 2010 with the Larry Flynt Production (LFP Internet Group, LLP) cases in the Northern District of Texas, and now ending with the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases in the Southern District of Texas, it is becoming apparent that Texas judges no longer tolerate copyright troll bittorrent-related cases.
On a personal note, I understand that this most recent Dallas Buyers Club, LLC filing was supposed to be one of many more cases to be filed here in Texas. And, just as Icarus flew too close to the sun, it was inevitable that this copyright holder would stumble upon a judge who dealt with the predatory bittorrent pornography cases we dealt with a few years ago. It was just a matter of time.