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Woman Wins Libel Suit By Suing Wrong Website

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the close-enough dept.

The Almighty Buck 323

An anonymous reader writes "It appears that Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones and her lawyer were so upset by a comment on the site TheDirty.com that they missed the 'y' at the end of the name. Instead, they sued the owner of TheDirt.com, whose owner didn't respond to the lawsuit. The end result was a judge awarding $11 million, in part because of the failure to respond. Now, both the owners of TheDirty.com and TheDirt.com are complaining that they're being wrongfully written about in the press — one for not having had any content about Sarah Jones but being told it needs to pay $11 million, and the other for having the content and having the press say it lost a lawsuit, even though no lawsuit was ever actually filed against it."

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323 comments

What TheDirt.com should do (5, Insightful)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#33448922)

Maybe TheDirt.com should sue Sarah Jones for libel for making false and damaging defamatory statements about them to the courts and to the press.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (4, Informative)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449036)

It says the reward was, in part, because the owner failed to respond(no showing a court date is bad) so its not really a case for libel.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449236)

Well, thedirt.com may never have received the complaint if it was delivered to the address for thedirty.com

They definitely have a lot of room to appeal this.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449418)

Well, thedirt.com may never have received the complaint if it was delivered to the address for thedirty.com

Except it wasn't.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (5, Insightful)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449470)

True, it will probably be really easy to appeal.

But they shouldn't have to. This is an area of out Justice system that sucks. Even though it's an easy win, they still have to pay a lawyer to go into court. Hopefully they will get their expenses reimbursed by the crack legal team that misspelled the word "Dirty".

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (2, Interesting)

Jezza (39441) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450226)

Can't someone (everyone) sue the lawyers who make this schoolboy error?

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (4, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449840)

Except you don't get court summons delivered by email, facebook, or Twitter. You get them via certified letter, in person, or some other means that is easy to audit.

Either the summons went to the wrong mail address (Whois for thedirty.com) or it went to the right address and right defendant. It sounds like it went to the wrong name & address.

Once this gets overturned and they presumably go after the correct party, I susped the plaintiff will have a hard time explaining why she didn't notice the mistake. The lawyer would have at least gone to the website with her in person. If she cared that much about some nasty comment in a website, you think she would notice that the lawyer was on the wrong site, wouldn't you?

My bet is this fuck up will cost her the real case. If you are pissed about some website, you don't exactly forget what the website looked like!

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449990)

"Except you don't get court summons delivered by email, facebook, or Twitter. You get them via certified letter, in person, or some other means that is easy to audit."

Not necessarily. It can come by regular mail.

Been there, done that.

A/C

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (3, Informative)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450220)

Depends on the jurisdiction. In Washington, if by mail it has to be both by certified letter and first class mail. (at least for what I had to assist filing)

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450348)

But did you get the t-shirt?

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449408)

No show doesn't mean you automatically lose. If it did then you could sue your best friend for the copyright to Microsoft Windows, and when your friend doesn't show up you automatically win and gain the rights to all royalties for Microsoft Windows.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449522)

Actually, you do, although I think it probably assumes that the papers were served to the correct party and that they had the opportunity to respond.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449424)

I'm not sure why they didn't show, but I'm guessing it had something to do with them being out of the court's jurisdiction.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

lunatic1969 (1010175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449712)

I'm not sure why they didn't show, but I'm guessing it had something to do with them being out of the court's jurisdiction.

They didn't have to show. One phone call to the attorney would have cleared it all up. "Hey, you made a mistake. You're suing the wrong person." ...Doing nothing was probably stupid.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450466)

IANAL, but I believe that regardless of whether or not the defendant shows up, the Plaintiff must still show wrongdoing on part of the defendant (other than failing to show up to court). This is a clear miscarriage of justice, and I find it incredible that NOBODY (judge, etc.) identified this error. This will be appealed and thrown out. Then maybe there will be damages going the other way (seriously, you sued the wrong f-ing person?!).

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449420)

And TheDirty.com could feasabley do the same since it was not sued and has been defamed from everyone saying they were.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (2, Insightful)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449472)

then she can sue her lawyer for not realizing he was suing the wrong company

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450108)

It's called Malpractice.

This week for me! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449502)

Similar thing happened to me this week.

One of my websites got an 8 page letter from a large law firm in DC (http://www.Venable.com) on behalf of Verizon. Had all kinds of BS in it. All kinds of threats, examples, quotations from the CEO and gave 7 days to respond. The only problem was that there was supposed to be an S on the end of the domain name. They interchanged example.com and examples.com all through 8 pages apparently not knowing that there was a difference. I pointed it out and they said:
"Our researchers had reason to believe that your company was the one that had published the referred to in my letter. I take it from your response that this is not the case; my apologies for the unintentional confusion. "

My response was, "If you are going to sign your name to something, you better review who is doing the research for you" and included the relevant WHOIS info. If they had done a simple WHOIS lookup they would have found the correct company and then could have looked up the correct business address. I cc'd a bunch of the partners because dumb-asses like that need to be reined in.

It must happen all the time, and it is unbelievable that no one noticed the problem. The attorneys should be embarrassed and the Judge/Clerks/Court should be even more embarrassed to have awarded a default judgement against the wrong company.

And IAAL. Stupid.

Re:This week for me! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449774)

One of the great things about being a Judge is never having to be embarrassed by any mistake you make, because you don't make mistakes.

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (2, Funny)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449964)

Maybe TheDirt.com should sue Sarah Jones for libel for making false and damaging defamatory statements about them to the courts and to the press.

By analogy, shouldn't they be suing one Sariah Jones? Or Sarah Jonhannes?

Re:What TheDirt.com should do (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450248)

They lost that privilege when they implied liability through their failure to respond to the lawsuit.

Cue cheerleader jokes in 3..2.. (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33448932)

It's not her fault. She got the lawyer to do her homework for her.

Re:Cue cheerleader jokes in 3..2.. (4, Funny)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449184)

Oooohh...you're for it now! Filing lawsuit against "elrous1" in 3, 2, 1....

I don't like this story (5, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33448974)

I'm gonna sue slashdork!

Re:I don't like this story (2, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449040)

Actually to be true to form, you should sue Digg...

Re:I don't like this story (5, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449188)

Which we would ALL appreciate.

Re:I don't like this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450216)

Actually to be true to form, you should sue Digg...

Don't you mean Diggy.com?

Re:I don't like this story (1)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449434)

Drakkenmensch: I'm gonna sue slashdork!

Are you really sure you want to give a site called slashdork.com good reasons for saying bad things about you?

I mean, their fanfic section alone... *shudder*

Hmm (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449048)

Too bad we can't register justicey.gov and repost the libel and slander...

Ye flipping bob... (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449062)

The stupid...it hurts me!

"Justice" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449118)

This has to be the best evidence that I have seen that our "Justice" system is broken. Did the judge not even bother looking at the evidence? And what were they thinking proceeding with a verdict without the defendant having a voice in the proceedings? It sounds like both the court and the suing attorneys completely ignored their due diligence duties and I hope they hang (financially & professionally) for it.

Re:"Justice" (2, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449468)

The defendant had a voice. They were summoned to court and refused to show up. They could have just sent a motion to dismiss with prejudice since they weren't the right defendant. They could have even just called her lawyer and said, "Look, we never wrote anything about your client, so we could not have slandered or libeled her. You have the wrong site." Then the lawyer could have done his diligence and filed against the proper party.

Re:"Justice" (5, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450046)

Maybe it was an error in judgment, but is it an $11 million error? That's sick.

What's even sicker is the legal wonks sitting around scratching their goatees and blathering "Well, teh laws am teh laws." This is a horrific result.

Then the lawyer could have done his diligence and filed against the proper party.

How about the lawyer do his due diligence BEFORE all this happens? You people... seriously... there needs to be more crotches punched in this world. You're all sleepwalking zombies.

Re:"Justice" (3, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450242)

You're right. He should have filed against the proper party in the first place. He was acting on the faulty recollection, likely enough, of his client. He still should have double-checked who the proper party was.

The company that got served would have had the plaintiff's lawyer's contact information and contact information for the court. They could have sent affidavits to both for a few dollars for the notary (if they don't employ anyone who is a notary) and a few dollars for certified postage that they had never written anything about the plaintiff and that they were not the proper party to sue. If the judge still ordered them to appear, they could have spent a few hours on local representation for someone to show up and argue for dismissal against the wrong defendant and naming of the proper defendant, then easily been reimbursed for that attorney's fees.

You do realize that this happens often enough -- that the wrong person or company gets served -- that there are established court procedures for dealing with it?

Re:"Justice" (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450340)

Then the lawyer could have done his diligence and filed against the proper party.

How about the lawyer do his due diligence BEFORE all this happens? You people... seriously... there needs to be more crotches punched in this world. You're all sleepwalking zombies.

Of course the lawyer should have done his due diligence before it happened, but he didn't. Anyone can sue anyone for anything and sometimes hilariously stupid mistakes get made. If you get someone else's lawsuit delivered to your door it's a pretty good idea to correct it.

Re:"Justice" (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450460)

On the other hand, after reading the article linked in the article linked by Slashdot...

The next day, Bertelsman ruled against Dirty World Entertainment Recordings. Kentucky attorney Eric Deters, who is representing Jones, said it was irrelevant that the incorrect corporation, website and physical address were listed on the complaint and judgment.

“We’re still going to serve that S.O.B. personally,” Deters said of Richie. “I’m going to make that dirty, rotten, mean, vermin bastard pay. He’s a piece of dirt.”

Her lawyer sounds like a hilariously stupid mistake.

Re:"Justice" (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450368)

How about the lawyer do his due diligence BEFORE all this happens? You people... seriously... there needs to be more crotches punched in this world. You're all sleepwalking zombies.

Yeah, yeah, we're all simpleminded sheep because we rely on the well-established court procedures for fixing the error that happened rather than following your advice and go around punching people who we disagree with. Truly your way will lead to a brighter tomorrow.

Re:"Justice" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450092)

"Look, we never wrote anything about your client, so we could not have slandered or libeled her. You have the wrong site."

Why would you do that? Her lawyer gets paid for that kind of information, you don't. Your best option is to wait it out. Very few people actually go through with that kind of threat. If you're actually summoned, get a lawyer, show up, win, then sue the idiot for all she got. If a person can get $11 million for libel, you should well get your time's worth for having to defend against someone trying to take you to the bank for something you didn't do.

Re:"Justice" (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450342)

You're under a legal obligation to mitigate damages to yourself at all times. You can't allow damages to pile up then win them all back.

A certified letter or even a couple phone calls would have likely straightened the plaintiff's lawyer out. Why fly to some other state or research local lawyers there to represent you in your absence, attend court, argue, and fight for the legal bills when you could spend $12 or so on a notarized affidavit sent through certified mail (and probably be reimbursed for that by her attorney right out of his office's petty cash account)?

Re:"Justice" (2, Insightful)

oji-sama (1151023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450142)

It's still broken, if you can sue a wrong party and win. You shouldn't need to worry about defending yourself (legally) from idiots.

Re:"Justice" (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450410)

You should honor the summons issued by the court. You should show up or answer it with a motion to dismiss or extend. If people just don't show up for court because they don't feel like it, then the courts don't work real well. Hence, default judgment exists.

There's a good chance that if the judge doesn't fix this on his own after all the press that they can just send a single motion to the clerk of the court asking the judge to set aside the judgement and dismiss the case against them, even after the judgment was made.

Re:"Justice" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450382)

You are assuming the lawyer used the correct address for the wrong company.

Re:"Justice" (3, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449636)

If you get a court summons, you should not ignore it. Even if they sent it to the wrong guy (you), you could at least call the plaintiff and say "yeah, I got this summons, but I think you got the wrong website).

If you just ignore the thing and hope it goes away, guess what... By not showing up in court the judge doesn't have to examine the evidence. They just assume since you didn't respond and didn't show up, you don't mind entering into a default judgement.

It isn't a fucked up justice system... It is an idiot who ignored a court summons. Can he wiggle out of it? Yes. But now it will cost him a whole lot more time, money, and hassle than if he had just picked up the phone and said "WTF is this summons about?"

Re:"Justice" (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450194)

You're assuming that they sent the summons to the right idiot.

Re:"Justice" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450212)

How do you know they didn't pick up the phone? Have you ever tried to talk to a batshit crazy woman on the phone?

Blonde lawyer? (1, Insightful)

spamking (967666) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449132)

Was her lawyer blonde too?

my interpretation (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449196)

someone was upset by certain comments [slashdot.org] and they are sending us a message.

this just in (5, Informative)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449294)

Sarah Jones beats her children and smokes crack in front of them while doing it. sue that

Re:this just in (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449574)

Eh, the only thing saving your ass there, is that she likely won't see it. Otherwise, you're definitely liable for slander.

Re:this just in (2, Informative)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449682)

Libel.

Re:this just in (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450154)

Neither, probably.

Unless you actually -believe- what he said/wrote, of course.
But given the forum being Slashdot while the subject is most likely entirely unknown to the poster, you have no reason to; the poster has no good standing in these matters.

The girl would have to seriously argue that, for example, a Google search for her name wold now come up with that sentence associated with it, she was in fact damaged by the statement (e.g. finding out a potential employer - a daycare center, perhaps - decided against employing her because of the statement).

IANAL, though

Re:this just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449966)

True.

It would have been funny (and more relevant), if he'd said something like:

"Sara Jones beats her children and smokes crack in front of them while doing it."

Re:this just in (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450072)

Which Sarah Jones?

Re:this just in (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449852)

So does whoever modded you "informative" get to get sued too? Serious question!

11 million? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449350)

Is that not a bit much, so much that most people/websites would just have to declare bankruptcy.
How is that a fair judgment, simple because they did not respond to completely unfounded and false claims about themselves.
and even if they did sue the right people, that is way to high.

If you ask me it is the judge that should be fined, are they not supposed to have some minimum amount of evidence about the truth of a matter before they pass judgment.

Re:11 million? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449440)

We all agree with you, sadly our lawyers do not... They often get a percentage after all.
And somehow I have the idea that lawyers and judges went to the same school to study law...

Re:11 million? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449442)

How is that a fair judgment, simple because they did not respond to completely unfounded and false claims about themselves.

Any person or company should know, you don't just ignore someone who's suing you.

f you ask me it is the judge that should be fined, are they not supposed to have some minimum amount of evidence about the truth of a matter before they pass judgment.

Why do you think the judge should be allowed to just ignore the law that says, if a party refuses to defend itself in a lawsuit, they get a judgment against them? Do you think judges should just do what they want even if the law says differently?

Re:11 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449666)

The judge should have noticed that the screenshots etc showed a site with a Y on the end and that the company they were suing did not have a Y.

Of course there are a lot of questions:
1. Who was actually served in the lawsuit? Was it with the Y? (e.g. was it delivered to "TheDirt" address but addressed to "TheDirty"?)
2. Who was named in the lawsuit?
3. Were they properly served etc?

The judge and the attorney should be ashamed.

Re:11 million? (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450230)

Yes, that's what we need! More shame!

Fuck consequences, retribution, and actual accountability, we need shame!

Re:11 million? (2, Informative)

XnavxeMiyyep (782119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449736)

Why do you think the judge should be allowed to just ignore the law that says, if a party refuses to defend itself in a lawsuit, they get a judgment against them? Do you think judges should just do what they want even if the law says differently?

If that is a part of the law, it should be changed so the judge has to at least check to see if there's some minimal evidence against the defendant. I mean, if 100 people filed 100 made-up lawsuits against someone, shouldn't the judge(s) at least check to make sure if there's at least some basic evidence before forcing an innocent party to respond or be considered guilty by default if they don't respond to all of them?

Re:11 million? (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450058)

If 100 people filed 100 cases, yes either the judge or some government prosecutor would probably look into it. Why? Either homeboy is racking up cases because he is doing something fishy, or somebody is committing a crime by basically filling bogus lawsuits. In short, that kind of stuff is suspicious.

In this case, nothing is suspicious. Case filed, summons delivered, no-show defendant... Next! No justice system on earth has the time to check the evidence. Plus it probably wouldn't be legal anyway. How would it be fair to the plaintiff if the defendant could get off the hook simply by not showing up?

Re:11 million? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450130)

The trick is to file 100 lawsuits in 100 different courts, this makes it so that even appearing is impossible due to conflicting schedules and the cost of hiring 100 attorneys to show up and or fight for against default judgment if you missed one. Oh.... Sony did it first.

Re:11 million? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450160)

I agree, where is the innocent until proven guilty.
it seems the court system is based around a system of "you are guilty until you prove that you are not".

Re:11 million? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450172)

shouldn't the judge(s) at least check to make sure if there's at least some basic evidence before forcing an innocent party to respond or be considered guilty by default if they don't respond to all of them?

The judge isn't even in the picture at that point; in a lawsuit someone files a complaint, serves it, then someone files an answer or some other kind of response. Neither of those things require the judge's attention, because nothing is being asked of them yet. And yes, if it was completely and utterly crazy, the judge would probably deny the motion for a default judgment, but where is that here? The plaintiff alleges that a certain website published certain statements. The judge isn't going to investigate whether they had the right website; he or she isn't even supposed to do that sort of investigation on their own. And even if the judge did, how would they know there was a problem? Go through the entire website trying to find the offending statement? If it's not there, just assume they have the wrong website? What if they were on the right website but the comment had been removed?

Re:11 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450352)

No. Nothing really needs to be changed. If you get sued, you need to respond to it. You can't just ignore the legal system, and hope your suit will resolve itself the way you would like. Even if some "basic" evidence is required to make a judgement, it would still be really stupid to hope that your case would resolve amicably without any of your own representation. Thedirt messed up big time by just ignoring legal paperwork.

Re:11 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449892)

The only thing worse than the law setup here is useful fools like you defending it. A regular guy gets some notice of a lawsuit that appears to have arrived from Imaginationland and maybe figures it's a mistake, and that's an $11 million mistake? What kind of mental illness or head in jury do you have where that's an acceptible result? This is fraking *evil*. This is the system raping a man's life because of one honest error. You're saying he has to hire a lawyer costing who know how much, then probably file a countersuit for costs... eff you, man. Just eff you and the whole system.

Re:11 million? (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450114)

Dude could have just picked up the phone and said "yo, wrong website". Laywer would have laughed, said "thanks for the tip!" and off you would have gone. You don't get to ignore a court summons. There is a reason they (and warrants) exist. Without them the legal system wouldn't work cause people could just stall the case forever.

Re:11 million? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450100)

Granted I do not know any of the laws that govern courts.
But if a suit against you is so ridiculous, such that any normal person could spend 1 minute of his time to figure out that is it false, then you should not have to even bother defending yourself.

Re:11 million? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449500)

Failure to appear for a civil action typically is taken as an admission of fault. The owners of the site that got summoned to court should have made it clear they weren't the right site, then they probably wouldn't have even made it to the court date as the defendant on record.

Injustice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449720)

Which sounds reasonable until you realize that just responding to the allegation would cost thousands of dollars.

And it's not at all likely he would have been made whole by the judge.

Since it's all lawyers, there's no way the Judge would make the *lawyer* pay the other side's complete cost and sanction him.

Judges would rather ruin the defendant's life rather than put the lawyer's career at risk. His priorities are straight, apparently.

Re:Injustice (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450098)

It doesn't cost thousands of dollars to call the plaintiff's lawyer and say, "Hey guy, nice lawsuit, but you want this Scottsdale company that actually owns the site you're suing over. Please get us removed as the defendant before we file against you for criminal malfeasance of the law."

Re:Injustice (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450180)

It would have been no more expensive then a phone call. The only case it would cost thousands is if the plaintiff wanted to be an ass and still sue you after pointing out they got the wrong website. And If that was t he case, you'd probably have a lot of options for recourse—many involving a lawsuit against them for all kinds of moneys.

Re:11 million? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450358)

Which makes sense when their is actually a question of the guilt of the party.

But when it should be obvious to everyone that the the absent party is innocent, I think this is an obviously flawed way to go about doing it.

there's a cheerleader-intellect joke (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449366)

in here somewhere.. If I were smarter than the average laid-off IT guy, I could find it.. I gotta go hit munster.com for my job search now.

Judge's career (2, Insightful)

pmontra (738736) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449372)

Is this going to harm or benefit the career of the judge? And suing the wrong company shouldn't invalidate the judgment?

Re:Judge's career (3, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449970)

IANAL, but what will probably happen is this: the $11 million will be set aside regarding this particular defendant, but since they never responded to the suit they'll pay the court costs and some few hundred dollars fine. Then the lawyer for the plaintiff will pay a small fine for filing an improper suit and will file a motion to replace the defendant with the proper defendant. Then the proper defendant will actually show up to court, and a civil trial will actually get under way. That is, if the court doesn't dismiss the case with prejudice for the lawyer being this sloppy in the first place.

In Illinois and Missouri, it is necessary to argue by motion or oral argument at the court that improper defendants be dismissed and proper parties be named. A civil court isn't a criminal court. If you've been summoned to court as a defendant and don't show up, many judges will automatically give the plaintiff default judgement against the defendant. I imagine most other US states have similar rules of the court. In Illinois, a default judgement can be set aside if a successful motion is filed within 30 days of the judgement.

AAMOF, if you fail to appear for a criminal proceeding as a defendant, you may get a bench warrant for your immediate arrest and even be charged (and maybe later found guilty) of an additional crime (FTA for criminal hearings and trials being an actual crime). I've seen judges just let people slide or just pay a small fine if they appear after a first FTA if the initial crime was a minor matter.

e-zine article on FTA [ezinearticles.com]
Illinois Pro Bono page on civil actions [illinoisprobono.org]

I keep referring to Illinois because that's where I live and so it's the jurisdiction that most interests me and is most relevant to me. Your jurisdiction may be different. The jurisdiction for the lawsuit in question is definitely different.

Consult a lawyer if you really need legal advice, but the company that got incorrectly served should be able to get out of the big judgment easily enough.

Re:Judge's career (2, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450306)

Is this going to harm or benefit the career of the judge?

The weird thing about all the slashdot legal-system-hate is it always comes down to angry posters demanding not necessarily change, but that the actors who follow the system be punished.

What exactly should the judge have done? He or she is told a certain website published a defamatory statement. How is the judge to know that it's the wrong shady gossip site?

American "Justice" System? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449380)

Proof again that America no longer has a Justice system.
What it does have instead, is merely a "Legal" system.

Dickens was right... (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449398)

The law IS an ass.

This sounds like a perfect opportunity for some lawyer to sue another lawyer.

Bring this up again when the use the DMCA for something useful.

Default judgements (5, Informative)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449454)

These default judgments for absurd amounts of money just show how broken our legal system is. If somebody doesn't show up to a court house for a lawsuit in the millions of dollars, it's probably because they weren't properly notified.

In fact, looking at thedirt.com, there's a posting about it on top of the page. The person seems as baffled and confused as the rest of us. The site looks like a random Wordpress blog tracking celebrity gossip, almost certainly a one-person operation with no budget or staff. The address on file for the domain is that of DomainsByProxy, and notice was probably never delivered to the actual site owner.

Did the judge ever consider that possibility before issuing an $11M default judgment against an individual? By simple inspection, one can see that Thedirt.com is very obviously not the product of a global mega-media-corporation with billions of dollars to sue for.

Why would you ruin someone's life without forcing proper process-serving and making sure the person or a lawyer for them show up? The civil system in the US needs to be torn apart and started again from scratch, or merged into the criminal system like in (some?) European countries.

Re:Default judgements (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449656)

"These default judgments for absurd amounts of money just show how broken our legal system is. If somebody doesn't show up to a court house for a lawsuit in the millions of dollars, it's probably because they weren't properly notified."

Or maybe it's because the lawsuit was BS and they don't have any money?

I can sue anyone in the country right now and they will be forced to either come to my local courthouse (even if they live in another state) or pay to send a lawyer to court. I know that sounds ridiculous but that's our US legal system. Same thing for small claims lawsuits.

Horrible thing is this lawsuit is completely valid: because they did not show up they do have to pay that $11 million. Doesn't matter that they really didn't do anything, the summons did arrive at the company they were suing and just because that company didn't really do anything doesn't matter at all, a lot of lawsuits have no merit and they still end up in court.

I really hate the way lawsuits work in the US.

Re:Default judgements (3, Informative)

glrotate (300695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449872)

I can sue anyone in the country right now and they will be forced to either come to my local courthouse (even if they live in another state) or pay to send a lawyer to court.

Incorrect. If the forum state does not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant, the Defendant does not need to appear.

Re:Default judgements (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449974)

Plus, if forum is burdensome to one party, they can move to have the venue changed.

Re:Default judgements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450088)

"Horrible thing is this lawsuit is completely valid: because they did not show up they do have to pay that $11 million. Doesn't matter that they really didn't do anything, the summons did arrive at the company they were suing and just because that company didn't really do anything doesn't matter at all, a lot of lawsuits have no merit and they still end up in court. "

Common sense says that's got to be wrong. You can't fine somebody $11 million for a crime they did not commit. The only fine the court could impose on them would be one for not turning up when requested i.e. contempt. And thats pushing it really as you would have to prove ...

Why didn't TheDirt.com respond? (1, Interesting)

elmodog (1064698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449498)

I am confused about why the owners of TheDirt.com did not respond to the lawsuit. Wouldn't it have been a trivial matter to dismiss the suit, since it was filed against the wrong site?

Re:Why didn't TheDirt.com respond? (1)

OutLawSuit (1107987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450070)

More than likely the papers were not properly served. So they probably never knew they were being sued.

a new business model.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449508)

- sue a website you've never heard of or ever visited.
- ????
- Profit!!

The sad thing is... (1)

awshidahak (1282256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449538)

In the article, it says she was also an English teacher. Therefore you'd think she'd get the spelling of the site correct. Well... guess she's getting 11 million dollars, so why should she complain?

It's the Judge's fault. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449568)

This illustrates why many judges need to be taken out and shot. They often either: do not understand what they are being asked to pass judgment on; make rash, emotionally-based decisions that are not relevant to the facts; think they are omniscient, omnipotent gods that are incapable of making a bad decision; are senile old fools.

Flamebait Headline and Summary (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33449640)

The headline and summary were written in a misleading way to mock Sarah Jones and cue all kinds of mindless jokes (as seen throughout this thread so far).

First, the woman is described in all other articles as being two things: a high school English teacher, and a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader. The summary drops the teacher detail, because it's much easier to mock a cheerleader than a teacher.

Second, she didn't sue the "wrong website". She tried to sue the right website, but due to a clerical error at her attorney's office, it went out to the wrong company. If you want to mock someone, mock the clerk who wrote up the paperwork, not Sarah Jones. She had a legitimate case— one that she would likely have won if the right company had been named on the suit.

Re:Flamebait Headline and Summary (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 3 years ago | (#33449810)

I recommend you immediately sue slashdots.org for this obviously unacceptable headline.

flaw (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450156)

The whole thing about automatically losing any lawsuit you don't answer leaves open a big fat hole for you to get DDoS'ed by the legal system. Get enough summonses thrown at you and a few are bound to slip through the cracks.

Re:flaw (2, Informative)

ultraexactzz (546422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450384)

There are legal processes for protecting against shenanigans like that - lawsuits intended solely to mire the defendant in paper would fall under vexatious litigation, I believe.

Turn it around - someone with a ligitimate complaint would be unable to proceed with it if the defendant stuck his fingers in his ears and went "LA LA LA I can't HEAR YOU"... Default judgments mean that you can't just run away from a suit, you have to face it and deal with it.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vexatious_litigation [wikipedia.org]

Think they might appeal? (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450238)

I bet nothing comes of this. There are no deep pockets anywhere.

Not safe for work? (1)

Jetrel (514839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450266)

Maybe the lawyer and the judge were worried the sites were not safe for work. I know I sure am with names like TheDirty.com and TheDirt.com

Typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33450286)

ah so typical - seems to the average person that lawyers these days are more focused on making smash-and-grab quick money instead of upholding the law. This is basics and shouldn't really have slipped through the cracks - in my profession a mistake of this magnitude would see me (and those like me) out of a job.

The *REAL* WTF (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450310)

Imagine Skynet's embarassment when the Terminator took out Sarah Jones.

Wow... (1)

DeafZombie (1144079) | more than 3 years ago | (#33450412)

Wow, and she is not even a blond. Wonder if the lawyer is.
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