Court Dismisses Prenda's Ridiculous Defamation Lawsuit Against Internet Critics & Guy Whose Signature It Forged

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

Remember Alan Cooper? This was the housekeeper for some cabins owned by John Steele, one of the lawyers behind Prenda Law, who suddenly found his name and (falsified) signature on a number of documents related to Prenda Law's copyright trolling shakedowns. Unhappy with this situation, Cooper sued John Steele and Prenda Law. In response, Prenda Law, Paul Duffy and John Steele all sued back... for defamation. Specifically, they filed three separate lawsuits, all against Alan Cooper, his lawyer Paul Godfread and a bunch of anonymous internet commenters. John Steele quickly dropped his lawsuit (apparently there were some serious procedural problems with it in Florida), but Duffy kept both his personal lawsuit and Prenda's lawsuit going -- despite the fact that the lawsuits were clearly crazy.

There was some back and forth as Duffy tried (and failed) to keep the lawsuits in state court (where crazy lawsuits tend to have a better chance), and last year the lawsuit that was technically filed by "Prenda" resulted in sanctions against Duffy. The lawsuit filed by Duffy himself, facing the same judge (John Darrah) has now been tossed out as well, siding with Cooper/Godfread over their claims that the lawsuit violated Minnesota's anti-SLAPP law. Darrah points out, in his analysis that Duffy appears to have just given up on the case, ignoring multiple requests by the court to present his arguments:
Plaintiffs have been given several chances at producing evidence to show that Godfread and Cooper’s statements are not entitled to immunity. The renewed motion to dismiss pursuant to the anti-SLAPP act was filed on October 30, 2014. Plaintiffs were given until December 1, 2014, to respond but did not do so. The ruling date was scheduled for February 17, 2015. On February 12, 2015, Plaintiffs were given until February 19, 2015 to respond but, again, did not do so. Throughout this case and the companion case, 14-cv-4391, Prenda and Duffy have ignored clear court orders and failed to fully brief motions. Plaintiffs have not produced clear and convincing evidence that Godfread and Cooper’s statements are not entitled to immunity. Therefore, Godfread and Cooper’s statements in the Minnesota lawsuit must be found to be immune from suit.
That was concerning the statements in Cooper's original lawsuit. How about the online commenters? Duffy doesn't fare well here either. As everyone pointed out at the time the lawsuit was filed, the comments of various anonymous online commenters were clearly statements of opinion, and thus not defamatory:
The Internet statements cited in Plaintiffs’ Complaint are opinions that do not contain an objectively verifiable assertion. Therefore, the statements are not libel per se but nonactionable opinions. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Counts I, II, III, and IV is granted without prejudice as to Defendants John Does 1-10.
Judge Darrah also rejects the claims of "false light" pointing out that such a claim requires "actual malice" and Duffy didn't even bother to show how any statements involved actual malice. Darrah also rejects the claims of "civil conspiracy" and "tortious interference" noting that Duffy made "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." In other words: just because you say it, it doesn't make it so, Duffy.

Consider Duffy's weak attempt into intimidation through defamation lawsuits a failed endeavor.
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Filed Under: alan cooper, defamation, dismissed, john darrah, paul duffy, paul godfread
Companies: prenda, prenda law

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Apr 2015 @ 4:24pm

    Effortless harassment

    Actually I'd count this as a win for Duffy/Prenda. Sure the lawsuit got tossed thanks to the anti-SLAPP law in the state, but they forced Cooper and his lawyer to spend time and money defending against it in court, and all for the 'cost' of a single legal filing.

    Unless the judge orders Duffy to pay Cooper's legal fees over the matter(and good luck collecting even if he does), I'd say Prenda came out on top here, even if the cases were tossed for being ridiculous and obviously filed as retaliatory measures.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Apr 2015 @ 4:34pm

      Re: Effortless harassment

      Don't forget the sanctions... and the sanctions on the sanctions...
      The complaint is dead, but the aftermath is just warming up.
      I do not think they will find much latitude with the court given the fact they were again called out for blowing off deadlines over and over and over and over and... you get the point.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2015 @ 12:54pm

      Re: Effortless harassment

      You have a very interesting notion of coming out on top.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Apr 2015 @ 4:31pm

    And then they pulled off his mask to find someone elses hand up his back working the puppet as he muttered...
    I would have gotten away with it if not for those darned kids.

    I'm pretty sure there was much more swearing, I mean once they found an ECF login they could use to get the ruling, then get one of the locals to read it to them, another one to explain it to them, and yet another one to explain that no they weren't winning and this was over.

    I full expect to see them file something in like a week past any deadline to do so arguing that they were robbed, mom said they were still pretty, and the Judge was just picking on them because they are white.

    On the serious side...
    Congratulations to Booth/Sweet & The Russell Firm for being awesome in the face of so much blathering.

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

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 13 Apr 2015 @ 4:41pm

    These suits filed by the Prenda gang were nothing more than attempts to silence their critics and the lawyers and the blogs like FCT & DTD who were educating people about what the Prenda gang were up to and how the poor ISP subscriber who received a settlement demand from them should proceed when dealing with a threat from them.

    The mere fact that the Prenda gang has been found in violation of the various court orders and how their conduct has been sanctioned by various Judges around the country and the Steele, Hansmeier and Duffy have all been refereed to the state bars they are members of along with the IRS Criminal Division speaks volumes about the type of individuals they are and how they long ago forgot their oaths as officers of the court.

    The fact that they even filed these three suits goes to show you how they would stop at nothing to keep the porn lawsuits settlement game that they had going.

    It wasn't only Godfread and Cooper that were threatened with action, they tried to get Judges removed from their cases because they didn't like the way the rulings were going against them, the many appeals and delay tactics they employed to thwart victims of their cases and to tie up cases in endless court case too keep the settlement scheme going.

    Never mind the outright games played with companies who existed in Nevis , but yet had no offices or place here in the U.S. but yet managed to sue thousands of people, but yet no records of any tax and no evidence of where all that settlement money went and disappeared to.

    We have yet to see the end of these copyright lawsuit settlement schemes end yet, there are still countless suits going on and on and people being extorted for cash.

    Has the Prenda gang learned anything, no they haven't. Seems the only thing they have learned is the lawsuit settlement game is too much of a cash cow to walk away from, so Steele and Hansmeier are now using the Americans with Disbalities Act to wring settlements out of poor unsuspecting business owners.

    And the scary thing is that there seems to be no end by the various state bars that the Prenda gang belongs to to stop them from doing these types of lawsuits.

    Once again it is going to take defense lawyers and the public to come to together and educate the public and the courts about what these new lawsuits are really about and the lawyers behind them

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Torpun, 13 Apr 2015 @ 5:42pm

    Oooh, screw you, Masnick!

    Masnicking copyright, loopy, hates it when copyright is enforced. I'm using Tor, you can't catch me, nyah! This is the full extent of my intelligence.

    URL placeholder
    Algorithm of random numbers and letters

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2015 @ 5:03am

      Re: Oooh, screw you, Masnick!

      ...As much as this is clearly not the real out_of_the_asscrack, it's pretty damn accurate.

      Voted funny.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2015 @ 7:47pm

    I hope these punks with Prenda drop the soap one time to many, revenge is a dish best served cold.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 13 Apr 2015 @ 7:59pm

    I would put the totality as a win for Prenda.

    They are lawyers. Filing the suit cost them the filing fee and a little time to write up something that sounded plausible. Which might not have been much time, given that it was, to quote, a "threadbare recital of the cause of action".

    To someone like Cooper, who was a caretaker in exchange for a rent-free cabin to live in, a lawsuit was a major event. It could (and perhaps did) financially ruin him. Even if it didn't, the possibility and uncertainty is hugely stressful.

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

  • identicon
    David, 14 Apr 2015 @ 4:06am

    The U.S. court system is the laughing stock of the world

    Dismissed without prejudice? For not bothering with the lawsuit at all?

    A clown company that has been referred to the IRS and the marshalls for likely financial fraud and money laundering and to the bar for malpractice, and about 3 years later they are still taking a dump on the court bench without consequences.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Apr 2015 @ 8:34am

      Re: The U.S. court system is the laughing stock of the world

      It is only without prejudice against the 10 Does, they TOTALLY can bring the suit back to life to try and silence them. One of the claims is that we implied the corporation engaged in fornication. A few of the people I am in contact with seem to think that it would be a stupid idea for them to try again... I merely pointed out the history of Pretenda double and tripling down on stupid. I'm still not scared of them or their pretend lawsuit, it is just another desperate gambit.

      I have a theory that they are trying to keep some cases active against the principals to forestall any investigation by IRSCID or USAG, because it is doubtful those entities would move against them during any litigation because then the screams of them not getting a fair hearing in court would echo. (I left the state bars off because let me be frank, they will not do shit to them. A lawyer was convicted of murder, after he'd been in jail 8 years (IIRC) they FINALLY decided it might be safe to disbar him.)

      And yes the US court system has failed on so many levels, but they were a laughing stock before Pretenda and will continue to be such.

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

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