From the #MoronFiles | F’n Litigators

PRELUDE: 

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say that I see all kinds of crazy stuff in my line of work. Some of the things that come across my desk make me frustrated with society and you probably know that I blog about Fighting Fair on the Internet because of the things that I see.  In addition, sometimes the things that I see that frustrate me include others that are part of my profession. Like any profession, there are certain shit bags (okay, maybe they aren’t all shitbags…just most of them) out there that give us lawyers a bad reputation and quite frankly, it pisses me off.

Some things that I see warrant a full blog article – so I write those.  Others just warrant a short mention because I find the conduct both outrageous AND funny.  I’ve decided to start a collection of true stories, with some identifying facts modified so I don’t have to deal with the psychos, and will be continually adding more of those to the #MORONFILES for your reading pleasure:

06/13/2017 #MORONFILES ENTRY:

No offense to any of the “normal” professional litigators out there because I work with some AMAZING ones…but what the hell is with the scorched earth approach right out of the box?  You are not an ape.  Stop pounding your chest.  I understand getting a little frustrated after repeated inquiries  (when there is merit to your position) however, when you come out of the box swinging, threatening meritless litigation (because you are too lazy to f’n do some legal research before running the diarrhea of the fingers on your keyboard) you are not setting yourself up for good things to come.  This is especially true when you are asking for a favor – you know, asking someone to do something they are not legally obligated to do.  You can bet that counsel like me will remember your shit attitude in the future, your name will be marked on the “shit list”, and you won’t be given any courtesies in the future.  Your shitty attitude has just screwed any future clients who may be similarly situated.  You want to be helpful to your clients?  Check that ego at the door. Respect begets respect and people remember how you treat them.

ADA Compliance and Websites: Yes, it’s really a thing.

I’ve said it before…it seems like everyone today has a website.  Whether you are a stay at home mom blogger, operate an e-commerce boutique shop, a local mechanic shop with a basic website or a full blown tech company – chances are you are no stranger to the internet and websites. Websites are how people find and interact with you or your company. Depending on what your website is designed for, you may have more risks to consider.  For example, as I recently discussed, if your website hosts third-party content, there are risks associated with that kind of a website.  Similarly, if your website collects email addresses so that you can later market to them, that presents an email marketing risk. This article is going to briefly discuss a new potential risk for website operators – that is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

You might be thinking: “How could a website become an issue with the ADA?”  That was my initial reaction too until I considered people who are blind or have a hearing impairment.  It’s easy to take for granted senses that we are used to having.  Think of all the “closed captioned (cc) for the hearing impaired” text that we have heard/seen on the television in the past.  Well, how does that work for those videos that you are making and posting to your website?  How do people navigate your website if they can’t see? Until a recent conference I had never even thought about how a visually impaired person accesses the internet.  I have since discovered that the visually impaired often access the internet through a special screen reader.  JAWS seems to be the most popular and I found a few interesting YouTube videos that give a demonstration of the JAWS program from different perspectives.  If you are curious, like I was and want a unique perspective that may help you with your website accessibility, you can see two of the links I found HERE and HERE.  The second video is from a student’s perspective which has a lot of good insight – including difficulties with .pdf documents, etc.

The above examples coupled with the legal actions that have been taken against websites in relation to an ADA claim, and the fact that I am starting to see solicitations from Continuing Learning Education companies teaching attorneys how to initiate actions, sends a solid message that this is something people/businesses need to be thinking about as they move forward with their existing websites and/or build out  new websites.

THINGS TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employments, State and local government services, places of public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.
  • These laws can be enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) through private lawsuits and indeed there are cases where the DOJ has specifically stated in rulings that websites should be designed so that they are accessible to those who have physical disabilities including vision and hearing.
  • The DOJ has already required some websites to modify their sites to comply with the ADA guidelines – see the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
  • There is no set required standards YET but it’s expected soon and they may require compliance within 12 months from the date of publication of the new standards to the public register.  If you have a big website, and perhaps a lot of changes that will need to be made, that isn’t a lot of time.

WHAT IS BEING LOOKED AT FOR COMPLIANCE?

WebAIM.org appears to be a pretty decent resource for information.  They have a pretty comprehensive checklist that may assist you and your website developing team out, however, below is a few points for consideration:

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

  • Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need online – think of large print, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  • Guideline 1.2: Provide captions and alternatives for multimedia.
  • Guideline 1.3: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example a more simplistic layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Guideline 1.4: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

User interface components and navigation must be operable.

  • Guideline 2.1: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Guideline 2.2: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  • Guideline 2.3: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures (like flashing content)
  • Guideline 2.4: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

  • Guideline 3.1: Make text content readable and understandable.
  • Guideline 3.2: Make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Guideline 3.3: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

  • Guideline 4.1: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

WHAT IF MY WEBSITE ISN’T COMPLIANT?   

For websites that aren’t compliant the following are some things you should consider:

  • Have a 24/7 telephone number serviced by a live customer service agent who can provide access to the information on the website – the phone number must be identified on the website and be accessible using a screen reader.
  • Consider starting to make adjustments to your website to help ensure you are compliant.

NEED HELP ENSURING COMPLIANCE?

It is always a good idea to get a formal legal opinion on these kinds of matters if in doubt. Being proactive is a far better position to be in than being reactive and in a time crunch and money might be tight. If you are in the state of Arizona, and need help with suggestions on how to help make your website ADA compliant or would like to discuss this topic generally so that you have a better understanding of how this issue might impact your business, Beebe Law, PLLC can help!  Contact us today.

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  

 

 

From the #MoronFiles | You Signed Your Name on This?

PRELUDE: 

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say that I see all kinds of crazy stuff in my line of work. Some of the things that come across my desk make me frustrated with society and you probably know that I blog about Fighting Fair on the Internet because of the things that I see.  In addition, sometimes the things that I see that frustrate me include others that are part of my profession. Like any profession, there are certain shit bags (okay, maybe they aren’t all shitbags…just most of them) out there that give us lawyers a bad reputation and quite frankly, it pisses me off.

Some things that I see warrant a full blog article – so I write those.  Others just warrant a short mention because I find the conduct both outrageous AND funny.  I’ve decided to start a collection of true stories, with some identifying facts modified so I don’t have to deal with the psychos, and will be continually adding more of those to the #MORONFILES for your reading pleasure:

05/31/2017 #MORONFILES ENTRY:

So here is a new one for the books.  A business client of mine is served with a third-party Subpoena Duces Tecum (fancy way of saying it’s asking for documents or things) today.  Today is May 31st – and this is important and you will see why in a minute.  Okay, standard procedure…except: 1) it’s an Amended Subpoena (never received the original subpoena); 2) allegedly issued from a state court that is in another state (so yeah, that’s not going to work – domestication pal); 3) asking for information to be provided back in the middle of April “to avoid having to make an appearance” (so, we get to time travel like Marty McFly?); 4) the said date of appearance was also scheduled for back in the middle of April (hmmm, must be banking on more of that time travel); 5) the date of said Amended Subpoena was dated back on the first of this month (so you know, the document production and/or appearance was supposed to occur BEFORE it was even signed AND the person apparently couldn’t get it served for over 30 days); 6) the Subpoena had no case number; and…oh, this is the best part… 7) WAIT FOR IT…WAIT FOR IT…when I looked up the case caption…there is no case pending with that case caption in that court!  You have got to be kidding me!?!  To top it off, right there at the bottom of this pile of crap is the name, bar number and signature of the attorney that paid to have it served upon my client.  Well alrighty then Shady McShaderson…

  • 06/08/2017 – UPDATE on “Shady McShaderson” | Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any more ridiculous than what was mentioned above…when “Shady McShaderson” got called out for above mentioned antics the response back was basically that the law of the state allows for attorneys to do a subpoena without a case number.  Ummm, come again?  I’m well aware of the pre-litigation discovery process in the particular state and this is NOT in line with the procedure, pal.  I don’t care what color you paint your abuse of process turd…it’s still a stinky turd!
  • 8/23/2017 – UPDATE on “Shady McShaderson” | Whoa! Shady McShaderson got a case going! So after sending a complete BS subpoena, for a case that doesn’t exist, and Shady McShaderson realized my client has ignored it, the genius counsel finally filed a case!  How did we find out? Genius counsel provided us with a case number…and only the case number. That’s it?  Come on…how much lazier and shadier can you get?  Of course such action was called out and it was explained, again, what the PROPER procedure is…  The response “no worries…”  Where do they find these people?  And how do they keep a bar license?

Email Marketing | Non-Compliance with CAN-SPAM Can Be COSTLY!

So many businesses now rely on email marketing to help generate traffic and revenue. However, failure to comply with the rules set forth in the CAN-SPAM Act could be financially ruinous!

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) explains that the CAN-SPAM Act “is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.”  Just how tough of penalties you ask?  Try penalties up to $40,654for each separate email, found to be in violation!

Uneducated businesses owners, trying to save a buck by doing email marketing for themselves in lieu of a more traditional professional service, may very well unknowingly send out emails that are in violation of the rules set forth by the CAN-SPAM Act.  In fact, in spite of the connotation that might stem from its name, CAN-SPAM doesn’t just apply to email messages that are sent in bulk – you know, like what you would normally think of as “SPAM.”  The rules under the CAN-SPAM Act apply to ALL commercial email messages that are for the primary purpose of commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.  Even emails that are to a former customer, maybe announcing a new product or service, has to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act rules….or else…potential OUTRAGEOUS penalties.  Let’s assume that you email 100 former customers; those emails were not compliant with CAN-SPAM, and assuming maximum penalties would be awarded against you, that would be $4,065,400!  Yes, you read that right.

THE MATH:  100 (non-complying emails to people) x $40,654 (the maximum penalties for violation) = $4,065,400.

Fortunately the rules are not all that difficult to comply with and the FTC’s website has provided a Compliance Guide for Business.  The basics include the following:

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
  3. Identify the message as an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you are located.
  5. Tell recipients how they can opt out from receiving future email from you.
  6. Honor opt-out requests right away.

One other key thing to remember is EVEN IF you rely on someone else to do mass email marketing for you, YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE!  You cannot turn a blind-eye to your advertising communications and expect to go unscathed if those communications do not comply with the law.

It is always a good idea to get a formal legal opinion on these kinds of matters if in doubt. If you are in the state of Arizona, and are seeking assistance with ensuring that your marketing emails, are in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, be it ones you created yourself or if you want to double check what your marketing vendor is doing,  Beebe Law, PLLC can help!  Contact us today.

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  

From the #MoronFiles | I Demand!

PRELUDE: 

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say that I see all kinds of crazy stuff in my line of work. Some of the things that come across my desk make me frustrated with society and you probably know that I blog about Fighting Fair on the Internet because of the things that I see.  In addition, sometimes the things that I see that frustrate me include others that are part of my profession. Like any profession, there are certain shit bags (okay, maybe they aren’t all shitbags…just most of them) out there that give us lawyers a bad reputation and quite frankly, it pisses me off.

Some things that I see warrant a full blog article – so I write those.  Others just warrant a short mention because I find the conduct both outrageous AND funny.  I’ve decided to start a collection of true stories, with some identifying facts modified so I don’t have to deal with the psychos, and will be continually adding more of those to the #MORONFILES for your reading pleasure:

05/23/2017 #MORONFILES ENTRY:

Perhaps not as good as the prior entry, however, this is still worth a note because it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If an individual or entity is NOT (emphasis on the NOT) legally obligated to take any action in connection with your situation one wonders what in the world counsel is thinking when they write a letter and use the phrase “I demand…” in bold and underlined, in the closing of their letter. You “demand!?!” What? Are you my mother asking me to do my chores or else I’m going to be grounded for the summer? Given the fact that your tone is complete shit, and my client has ZERO legal obligation to do anything, your “demand” is now being filed away and NOT responded to. #DENIED! Why? Because I’m not interested in dealing with an ass-hat and you have now given me NO incentive to even look at your materials.  Moral to the story: Like my momma always says “you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” I subscribe to that philosophy…plus I like to treat others as I would expect to be treated.

 

So You Want to Run a Website: Common Risks When Hosting Third-Party Content

It seems like EVERYONE today has a website.  Whether it be a personal blog to a full scale business – websites are how people “find” and often “interact” with you today.  However, just like any business, it doesn’t come without risk.  This article will address a few of the most common areas where a website operator can incur liability if they want to host third-party content (i.e., you want to allow people to post and/or comment on postings).

To begin with, as I have referenced in my prior articles regarding Troubles with Defamatory Online Reviews and Content ScrapersThat Would be Harsher Punishment for internet Defamers StanWhy Google De-Indexing May NOT be an Effective Reputation Management Solution, etc., at least in the United States, the federal law often referred to as the Communications Decency Act, aka Section 230 or the “CDA” generally immunizes websites from third-party content.  In layman’s terms, this means that an internet service provider, such as a website, is not typically liable for content written by a third-party.  That does NOT, however, mean that you don’t have to be cautious.  In fact, the intricacies of the law surrounding the CDA can be quite complex.  It would be tragic for an unsuspecting business to be sued into bankruptcy over preventable little mistakes.

The following are a few common areas of potential liability:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY:  Intellectual Property, including claims of Copyright and Trademark Infringement are NOT barred by the Communications Decency Act.  If a third-party puts content on your website that infringes on someone else’s Copyright or Trademark, you could be held liable.

DEVELOPING CONTENT:  Depending on how you solicit and/or edit a third-party’s content you could be held liable.  Many of plaintiffs have argued against website’s editorial decisions or even what sort of requirements/fields are built in for website users to enter information into, can take them outside of the protections of the CDA.

If you are considering starting up a new website or a business with an existing website it is wise to take these matters into account at the very beginning, or as soon as otherwise practicable.  Moreover, individuals and businesses are wise to consult an internet lawyer that practices in internet law when beginning to lay out their business plan for their website.  A consultation fee now can save you THOUSANDS in the long run.

Until next time friends…

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  If you are in the state of Arizona, and seeking consultation in the area of infringement relating to Copyright, Trademark, or other risks associated with being a website and hosting third-party content, contact Beebe Law, PLLC today.

 

 

 

 

So Good You Can’t Make It Up | A Collection From the #MoronFiles

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say that I see all kinds of crazy stuff in my line of work. Some of the things that come across my desk make me frustrated with society and you probably know that I blog about Fighting Fair on the Internet because of the things that I see.  In addition, sometimes the things that I see that frustrate me include others that are part of my profession. Like any profession, there are certain shit bags (okay, maybe they aren’t all shitbags…just most of them) out there that give us lawyers a bad reputation and quite frankly, it pisses me off.

Some things that I see warrant a full blog article – so I write those.  Others just warrant a short mention because I find the conduct both outrageous AND funny.  I’ve decided to start a collection of true stories, with some identifying facts modified so I don’t have to deal with the psychos, and will be continually adding more of those here for your reading pleasure:

07/05/2017 – A “Nominal Defendant” | Following a nice four day weekend it’s always fun to come back to the office to a freshly filed complaint against one of your clients. Said complaint was filed out of state (one in which does NOT have jurisdiction over my client for a host of reasons including Plaintiff having agreed to jurisdiction elsewhere), the “cause of action” (which isn’t really a cause of action in the first place – apparently Plaintiff’s counsel confuses causes of action with remedies) is without legal merit, and counsel called my client a “nominal defendant.” Let’s be real here; there is no “nominal defendant.” ALL defendants (in most cases anyway) will have to extend valuable resources and time to deal with even the most handicapped complaint by filing motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction or other defenses.  You can’t paint a rainbow on birdshit and call it a rainbow…no, it’s still birdshit.  You know, just so we are clear…

06/16/2017 – You Know You Are A Lazy Lawyer When | It’s been a busy few weeks to say the least.  This one will be short and sweet.  If you are going to spend the money to serve someone, you should probably spend some time actually trying to figure out the proper entity to name and statutory agent first.  A way you start this is by trying to run a search in this really cool search engine called Google.  And then you can also use these cool public websites where businesses are registered called the Corporation Commission for the particular state.  That will not only give you proper entity spelling but also who the proper statutory agent for service is.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes that can be easier said that done for some entities…BUT…this particular one I have in mind is EASILY found online.  What this tells me: lazy lawyer probably just billed his client for less than half ass work that will result in NOTHING because it’s not valid. #Ignored #FeelingSorryForTheirClient

06/13/2017 – F’n LitigatorsNo offense to any of the “normal” professional litigators out there because I work with some AMAZING ones…but what the hell is with the scorched earth approach right out of the box?  You are not an ape.  Stop pounding your chest.  I understand getting a little frustrated after repeated inquiries  (when there is merit to your position) however, when you come out of the box swinging, threatening meritless litigation (because you are too lazy to f’n do some legal research before running the diarrhea of the fingers on your keyboard) you are not setting yourself up for good things to come.  This is especially true when you are asking for a favor – you know, asking someone to do something they are not legally obligated to do.  You can bet that counsel like me will remember your shit attitude in the future, your name will be marked on the “shit list”, and you won’t be given any courtesies in the future.  Your shitty attitude has just screwed any future clients who may be similarly situated.  You want to be helpful to your clients?  Check that ego at the door. Respect begets respect and people remember how you treat them.

05/31/2017 – You Signed Your Name on This? | So here is a new one for the books.  A business client of mine is served with a third-party Subpoena Duces Tecum (fancy way of saying it’s asking for documents or things) today.  Today is May 31st – and this is important and you will see why in a minute.  Okay, standard procedure…except: 1) it’s an Amended Subpoena (never received the original subpoena); 2) allegedly issued from a state court that is in another state (so yeah, that’s not going to work – domestication pal); 3) asking for information to be provided back in the middle of April “to avoid having to make an appearance” (so, we get to time travel like Marty McFly?); 4) the said date of appearance was also scheduled for back in the middle of April (hmmm, must be banking on more of that time travel); 5) the date of said Amended Subpoena was dated back on the first of this month (so you know, the document production and/or appearance was supposed to occur BEFORE it was even signed AND the person apparently couldn’t get it served for over 30 days); 6) the Subpoena had no case number; and…oh, this is the best part… 7) WAIT FOR IT…WAIT FOR IT…when I looked up the case caption…there is no case pending with that case caption in that court!  You have got to be kidding me!?!  To top it off, right there at the bottom of this pile of crap is the name, bar number and signature of the attorney that paid to have it served upon my client.  Well alrighty then Shady McShaderson…

  • 06/08/2017 – UPDATE on “Shady McShaderson” | Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any more ridiculous than what was mentioned above…when “Shady McShaderson” got called out for above mentioned antics the response back was basically that the law of the state allows for attorneys to do a subpoena without a case number.  Ummm, come again?  I’m well aware of the pre-litigation discovery process in the particular state and this is NOT in line with the procedure, pal.  I don’t care what color you paint your abuse of process turd…it’s still a stinky turd!
  • 8/23/2017 – UPDATE on “Shady McShaderson” | Whoa! Shady McShaderson got a case going! So after sending a BS subpoena, for a case that doesn’t exist, Shady McShaderson and realized we’ve ignored it, the genius counsel finally filed a case!  What did said genius counsel do? Provided us with a case number.  That’s it?  What a fricken moron.  Come on…how much lazier and shadier can you get?  Of course such action was called out and it was explained, again, what the PROPER procedure is…  The response “no worries…”  Where do they find these people?  And how do they keep a bar license?

05/23/2017 – I Demand! | Perhaps not as good as the prior entry, however, this is still worth a note because it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If an individual or entity is NOT (emphasis on the NOT) legally obligated to take any action in connection with your situation one wonders what in the world counsel is thinking when they write a letter and use the phrase “I demand…” in bold and underlined, in the closing of their letter. You “demand!?!” What? Are you my mother asking me to do my chores or else I’m going to be grounded for the summer? Given the fact that your tone is complete shit, and my client has ZERO legal obligation to do anything, your “demand” is now being filed away and NOT responded to. #DENIED! Why? Because I’m not interested in dealing with an ass-hat and you have now given me NO incentive to even look at your materials.  Moral to the story: Like my momma always says “you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” I subscribe to that philosophy…plus I like to treat others as I would expect to be treated.

05/12/2017 – Disbarred Attorney | Today I reviewed a rather rude communication from an individual who wrote a meritless threatening letter (and I mean, the person couldn’t possibly have a viable claim based upon statute of limitations and other precedent law given the situation) making dumb statements and signed their name with “a Dallas lawyer” and a request that the communication be taken seriously.  Sure thing there good buddy!  Well, when I receive communications that I perceive to be on the “shittier side of Sears” (my spin on the old “softer side of Sears” advertising) I will look into the individual.  Ah, low and behold said “Dallas lawyer,” was DISBARRED from the state of Texas over two years ago for some rather naughty stuff…as in the crime allegedly committed is a felony in the state.  Right there, on the State Bar website, CLEAR AS DAY, it said this person was DISBARRED.  The State law there says that you are not a lawyer in the state unless you are licence to practice there.  So, no person, that makes you NOT a Texas attorney…and, in fact, your state can make holding yourself out as an attorney, when you aren’t, a felony.  Get that? F-E-L-O-N-Y.  Yeah, poor decision on your part.  Asshat.

Until next time friends…

 

From the #MoronFiles | Disbarred Attorney

PRELUDE: 

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say that I see all kinds of crazy stuff in my line of work. Some of the things that come across my desk make me frustrated with society and you probably know that I blog about Fighting Fair on the Internet because of the things that I see.  In addition, sometimes the things that I see that frustrate me include others that are part of my profession. Like any profession, there are certain shit bags (okay, maybe they aren’t all shitbags…just most of them) out there that give us lawyers a bad reputation and quite frankly, it pisses me off.

Some things that I see warrant a full blog article – so I write those.  Others just warrant a short mention because I find the conduct both outrageous AND funny.  I’ve decided to start a collection of true stories, with some identifying facts modified so I don’t have to deal with the psychos, and will be continually adding more of those to the #MORONFILES for your reading pleasure:

05/12/2017 #MORONFILES ENTRY:

Today I reviewed a rather rude communication from an individual who wrote a meritless threatening letter (and I mean, the person couldn’t possibly have a viable claim based upon statute of limitations and other precedent law given the situation) making dumb statements and signed their name with “a Dallas lawyer” and a request that the communication be taken seriously.  Sure thing there good buddy!  Well, when I receive communications that I perceive to be on the “shittier side of Sears” (my spin on the old “softer side of Sears” advertising) I will look into the individual.  Ah, low and behold said “Dallas lawyer,” was DISBARRED from the state of Texas over two years ago for some rather naughty stuff…as in the crime allegedly committed is a felony in the state.  Right there, on the State Bar website, CLEAR AS DAY, it said this person was DISBARRED.  The State law there says that you are not a lawyer in the state unless you are licence to practice there.  So, no person, that makes you NOT a Texas attorney…and, in fact, your state can make holding yourself out as an attorney, when you aren’t, a felony.  Get that? F-E-L-O-N-Y.  Yeah, poor decision on your part.  Asshat.

A “kids will be kids” mindset could get parents into legal trouble in Arizona

I am fortunate enough to live in a fairly close knit community full of beautiful families and a lot of kids.  However, no matter how amazing of a community I might live in, the truth is, we, like most communities, still have the occasional chaos that neighbors will complain about.  Indeed, we hear about it all – from minor situations like barking dogs, rules of an HOA, or kids making too much dust playing in the dirt to increasingly more problematic issues like speeders, theft of packages from people’s doorsteps, and vandalism of facilities on occasion.  Our community even has a Facebook page wherein people will, in addition to posting good things going on in the community, also discuss these kinds of issues and/or put people on blast for perceived transgressions.

In this mix of issues that people will talk about includes rambunctious kids, often teenagers, that make poor decisions and choose to do things like break little kids playground equipment in the community because the equipment isn’t being utilized properly or perhaps steal items from people’s property – probably because they think it is funny and don’t really consider the consequences. Today, many people have camera phones and/or camera systems set up on their homes that catch the perpetrators in action.  The community response to these kinds of issues are as mixed as the members of the community.  Some people demand that the local police/sheriff is called.  Others will post the images, if they have them, onto Facebook as a form of public shaming.  Some will hold onto the images and complain about it on the community Facebook page hoping that the parents of children will take some responsibility and have discussions with their kids.  Even yet, some will do a combination of any or all of the above…hoping to deter future bad conduct.

In one recent example that I can think of one homeowner caught on tape what appeared to be a teenager stealing an item from his property.  The homeowner wrote on the Facebook community page about the transgression, advised that they had video of the act, and requested that the item be returned.  Of course, there was a community uproar and all kinds of advice (good and bad in my opinion) was handed out on how the homeowner should handle the situation.  Further review of the comments to the thread suggest that the homeowner spoke to the perpetrating teen’s parents and allegedly received a “kids will be kids” mentality response.    Ah…maybe “kids will be kids” but when it comes to property damage and/or theft, at least here in Arizona, that could be problematic for the parents and is something that should be taken a little more seriously.

PARENTS CAN BE LIABLE FOR THEIR “KIDS BEING KIDS”

Now if something happens that is purely accidental a parent probably won’t be found to be liable.  However, if your little Pumpkin, Prince/Princess, or Snowflake does it on purpose – well, you could have a legal battle ahead of you.  Your kid may have only taken a $5.00 Dollar Store troll doll from someone’s front sidewalk and/or smashed it in the road because it seemed funny, however, in the eyes of the person whose property was stolen or damaged…it’s not so funny.  What’s the harm?  It’s only $5.00 right?  Well, let’s look at how this can escalate into a mess that could cost you well over $5.00 to deal with.

CIVIL LIABILITIES IMPUTIMPUTEDED TO THE PARENTS

Arizona Revised Statute § 12-661 covers liabilities of parents or legal guardians for malicious or willful misconduct of minors.  As of this writing, Section 12-661(A) states “Any act of malicious or wilful misconduct of a minor which results in any injury to the person or property of another, to include theft or shoplifting, shall be imputed to the parents or legal guardian having custody or control of the minor whether or not such parents or guardian could have anticipated the misconduct for all purposes of civil damages, and such parents or guardian having custody or control shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any actual damages resulting from such malicious or wilful misconduct.”  Section 12-661(B) states “The joint and several liability of one or both parents or legal guardian having custody or control of a minor under this section shall not exceed ten thousand dollars for each tort of the minor. The liability imposed by this section is in addition to any liability otherwise imposed by law.”  Emphasis of bold, italics, and underlining added.

HOW THINGS CAN GET EXPENSIVE FOR UNSUSPECTING PARENTS

Depending on how important the issue is to the homeowner, and how much damage was done, the homeowner very well file a complaint against you for the actual damages utilizing A.R.S. § 12-661 AND any other related civil causes of action including legal theories like negligence and the duty of care (especially if parents had notice of the misconduct and failed to do anything to try and deter such behavior) which may provide for monetary remedies beyond actual damages.  More than one child involved?  You may have to multiply those damages per child involved.  Further, most insurance companies will not agree to pay out claims caused by an intentional act so one shouldn’t rely on that either.

Depending on the damage amount claimed or estimated in a compliant will determine which court (Small Claims Court – up to $3,500, Justice Court – up to $10,000, or Superior Court – over $10,000) your matter will be heard in.  The general rule of thumb, the bigger the court, the more expensive the filings fees and other costs may be.  For example, a response to a complaint filed in the Maricopa County Superior Court currently costs $237.00.   Need to hire an attorney to defend you in the civil matter?   A recent State Bar of Arizona magazine article has suggested that the billing rate for many attorneys in Arizona is $275.00/hr.  I have colleagues that bill upwards of $465 an hour and some have a minimum bill of .2 – that’s 12 minutes or $55.00 if your attorney bills the $275/hr.  Send a text message asking about your case.  That’s $55.00 done and gone – just like that. I can advise from experience that many attorneys will expect an upfront retainer of $5,000 – $25,000 depending on the complexity of the matter and your Answer to a Complaint alone can run $2,500 or more.  Then you add in the legal research fees, the copy fees, mailing fees and anything else that might be required for your case.  What about your time?  Your time is valuable right?  What about the time you will have to devote to tending to legal matters?  Time is the one thing you can’t get back…

FAILURE TO CORRECT ACTIONS ON LITTLE THINGS CAN LEAD TO BIGGER PROBLEMS

As adults we are all likely aware of the big Bernie Madoff situation where he stole $18 billion (yes, billion with a B) from investors.  No one starts out with big things. No one sets out to have a career of misdeeds that can land them into legal trouble just as an addict doesn’t take their first hit or sip anticipating becoming an addict.  Apparently Madoff told Vanity Fair “Well, you know what happens is, it starts out with you taking a little bit, maybe a few hundred, a few thousand…You get comfortable with that, and before you know it, it snowballs into something big.”  Now it’s a stretch to compare kids to Bernie Madoff, however, you get the point – and the psychology on it is pretty much the same.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, “[a] new study finds that getting away with minor infractions ends up making it easier for people to justify bigger, more serious ethical violations.   Over time, small ethical transgressions – like stealing pens from work – can put employees on the ‘slippery slope’ of increasingly bad behavior.”  You can review the full article here.  This is why it is imperative that parents take action with even the smallest of issues – which includes figuring out why your child is misbehaving (which might include seeking assistance from a family counselor, doctor, support group, etc.), determining appropriate consequences and sticking with those consequences.  It’s also important to monitor your kids behavior and keep him/her away from situations in which there is temptation to continue with poor choices.

 

Until next time friends…

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

 

 

Website Terms of Service: You Are Responsible for Your Own Actions

In my practice I write and review website terms of service with some regularity.  Most website Terms of Service have sections that relate to a users online conduct; that is, the rules that the website expects you follow when using their website.  If you don’t read anything else (because let’s fact it, unless you LOVE fine print, you probably aren’t going to read it) you absolutely should review the section that discusses what conduct is expected of you.  If you aren’t going to follow the rules don’t use the website.

Yes, this sounds like a no-brainer, right?  You’d think so, however, you would be fascinated to learn how many people don’t pay attention to these things and then, when they get busted breaking a Terms of Service rule, they come back and try to blame the website for the rule!  Um, no.  How about you try taking some responsibility for your own actions?  Yeah, let’s try that.

WHAT DO THE TERMS OF SERVICE SAY ABOUT MODIFICATION OR REMOVAL OF CONTENT?

Many websites will allow users to post content and then edit or remove the postings at a later date.  Consider sites like Facebook for example.  Other websites will give you only the ability to delete postings, but not edit, as seen with sites like Twitter.  At the same time many websites will not allow a user to edit or remove information once it is posted, regardless of the circumstances.

I typically see these no-removal rules often with complaint/review styled websites and this information is usually spelled out in the Terms of Service and, in some cases, elsewhere on the website.  Why would a website make such a rule?  Some websites claim that the reason they have a no removal policy, especially on a review/complaint type website, is because those websites believe that people will be bullied into taking truthful content down when the public really should be warned about bad actors or bad businesses.  I suppose the websites figure that if they have a rule against removing content, it doesn’t do the bad actors or bad businesses any good to harass the poster because the information is going to remain up anyway.  Yes, I know this opens Pandora’s Box for the “but what if…” statements and I know well the arguments against such non-removal rules, but I will not engage in that here because I’d be writing a dissertation and I’m trying to keep on topic and make this relatively short.

TERMS OF SERVICE:  WHY YOU SHOULD CARE.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, most people don’t care about these kinds of things and go on there merry way using a website, posting content, etc, – until they are threatened with litigation over something they posted.  Defamation is against the law and is actionable.  Most websites will make you agree, per their terms of service, that you will not do anything illegal.  They might even spell out that you have to tell the truth if you are posting a complaint or review.  Unfortunately, people either can’t read, don’t know what “truth” means, or otherwise don’t give a crap because they write stupid stuff anyway.  If you say something mean and untruthful online about someone else or someone else’s business – there is a possibility that you will see a defamation action against you.  Heck, even if what you say is truthful, you still could see a defamation action against you.  It’s the way the world these days – people sue over the most ridiculous stuff! Yes there are defenses to such claims, like the truth, however, if you use an attorney, it’s going to be legal battle that you will have to fund.

Typically a person considering litigation is going to go the easiest route and ask the person who posted the information to simply remove it.  If the person posted the information to websites like Facebook or Twitter, chances are one can just log into their account, edit or delete the content at issue, and be done with it.  HOWEVER, what happens when you posted the content to a website that specifies, right in their terms of service, that you can’t remove the posting?  If that is the case, chances are, that content isn’t coming down – even if you ask and regardless of the situation.

DON’T BLAME THE WEBSITE FOR YOUR MISTAKE.

Now we are getting to the ironic part.  A person will use a website, knowingly break the rules (such as posting false and defamatory stuff) and then, when they get a letter from a lawyer or a lawsuit against them, all of the sudden get concerned about what they wrote and will try to figure out how to take it down.  It’s like when you’ve been speeding, know you were speeding, and act all surprised when you get pulled over by a cop and quickly try to make an excuse for why you were speeding – as if that is going to somehow change the fact that you broke the law by speeding.  When an author gets a letter from a lawyer about a posting online the first thing they do is try to take it down.  In some instances they can remove the content…but that doesn’t always work as I explained above.  It amazes me how many people will write to a website asking for their stuff to be removed even when the terms of service, and the fact that someone can’t remove something after it was posted, was made abundantly clear before they made the posting.  When they get told “no” somehow that comes as a shock.  What happens next, in my experience, is one or any combination of the following:

  1. Excuses of why they wrote what they did.  The whole I was mad/sad/hurt shouldn’t have done it story.  This is what I call fools remorse.
  2. Allegations that “someone else” wrote it. People will literally allege that their “minor child” wrote the sophisticated well written posting about a business dealing. Uh huh, sure they did…and way to throw your kid under the bus.
  3. Stories of how the author/user of the website is “special.”  Most people that claim “special circumstances” aren’t all that unique when compared to anyone else.  I know your momma thinks you are special – but a website probably isn’t going to think so.
  4. Statements of “I wrote it.  It’s false…so you HAVE to take it down!”  No, actually the website doesn’t (at least under current federal law) and are you basically admitting that you breached the contract with the website that said you wouldn’t post something that is false?  Hmmm, that doesn’t seem like a very smart argument.
  5. I’m going to sue you if you don’t take it down!  Cool story – the current law doesn’t support your position and you are making yourself look like ass.  By the way, those terms of service that you agreed to by using the website or otherwise “checking the box” saying you agreed – yeah, that’s called a contract.

I wish I was making this stuff up but I have literally seen all of these kinds of excuses/stories made by people who are getting into trouble for what they posted online.  If you are one of THOSE people – you deserve to get into trouble.  The most ridiculous position that one can take is to be mad and blame a website for having known consequences to a rule THAT YOU BROKE.  That’s like being mad at the law makers who created the speed limit when you get into trouble because you broke the law by speeding!  No one made you speed.  Own the problems that you create.

Bottom line; read the Terms of Service before you use a website.  If you break the rules (especially if you are a harasser or defamer) don’t get mad at the websites for having the rules and consequences (that you failed to consider when you broke the rules) applied to you.  You have to own and accept responsibility for your actions – regardless of how hard of a pill that is to swallow. 

Until next time friends…

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

Texas Court Paving the Highway for Abuse of Anonymous Authors’ Rights One Pre-Litigation Discovery Order at a Time: Glassdoor v. Andra Group

The United States has long held close to its heart the right for authors to speak anonymously.  However, protecting an anonymous author is getting more and more difficult these days.  The March 24, 2017 ruling by the Appellate Court for the Fifth District of Texas in Glassdoor, Inc., et al. v. Andra Group, LP certainly didn’t help either.

In my practice I see volumes of subpoenas sent to websites holding third-party anonymous content requesting the anonymous author’s identifying information.   Most of the time Plaintiffs file a John or Jane Doe defamation related litigation, which preserves the statute of limitations, and then they conduct limited discovery in order to ascertain who the proper defendants are and move forward from that point.  Typically, most states have some sort of notice requirement to the anonymous author that would provide them the opportunity to appear and defend their right to remain anonymous.  In the state of Arizona we have the controlling case of Mobilisa v. Doe, 217 Ariz. 103, 114-15, 170 P.3d 712, 723-24 (App. 2007).  It’s common for websites to raise objections on behalf of an anonymous author when the appropriate basic standards have not been met and, as I recently discussed in another article regarding Glassdoor, courts are ruling that websites like Glassdoor have the standing for the same.  This process, including giving author notice in a reasonable way, has always seemed fair to me.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a loophole that many Plaintiffs are taking advantage of, and it can be problematic for anonymous authors and websites alike.  I think that pre-litigation discovery tools (Illinois Rule 224, Texas Rule 202, etc.) are being abused in cases dealing with anonymous authors.   While I firmly believe that purposeful defamers and harassers should have the book thrown at them (i.e., fines, community service and/or educational requirements), often times the burdens on the plaintiff are not that high, it may not require notice to the author, and once an anonymous author’s information is revealed you can’t un-ring that bell.  I believe that pre-litigation discovery tools need either a very high threshold, have a notice requirements like that of Mobilisa or, alternatively, be barred in cases where a party is utilizing it to seek anonymous author information.

In this case Andra filed a Rule 202 petition against Glassdoor seeking to discover the anonymous reviewers’ identities relating to some ten (10) allegedly defamatory postings made about it.  Glassdoor, along with two (2) of the anonymous authors, filed an anti-SLAPP dismissal motion.  The trial court denied the motion and granted in part the Rule 202 petition which basically allowed Plaintiff to take the deposition of Glassdoor (even though claims against Glassdoor were not anticipated) regarding two (2) of the anonymous postings, not written by Glassdoor nor either Doe 1 or Doe 2, and was going to limit the deposition to five specific statements within those reviews.  Glassdoor and the anonymous authors understandably appealed the trial court’s ruling.

The Appellate court then skipped over the whole concept of anonymous free speech when it justified the trial court’s order by stating that “[k]nowing the reviews’ contents alone did not tell Andra [plaintiff] whether it had viable claims against the anonymous reviewers” and that “Andra also needed to know not only the reviewers’ relationships with Andra to evaluate potential defensive issues such as substantial truth.”  See Memorandum, p. 7.  Yeah, you read that right.  The balancing test on pages 8-10 are equally problematic and even through the trial court limited the deposition of Glassdoor to a handful of statements the author(s) of the selected statements still didn’t necessarily have notice nor necessarily the opportunity to appear and defend.  Even more troubling is the statement by the Court “[b]ut Rule 202 does not require a petitioner investigating a potential claim to show a probable right in relief on the merits.”  See Id, pg. 12.  Say what?  So a Rule 202 petition can be a BS fishing expedition, not give notice to an author of the BS fishing expedition, require a website to extend time and resources to sit for a BS fishing expedition and/or raise all defenses that may otherwise lie with the knowledge of an author, and that is all okay?  Who made up this batch of Koolaid?  How can the Court not see how this is paving the highway for abuse by plaintiffs?

You can review the entire Memorandum Opinion here: 

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Until next time friends…

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

 

 

 

Why Google De-Indexing May NOT be an Effective Reputation Management Solution.

What reputation management companies should know, defamation lawyers probably already know, but clients either aren’t being warned about or the clients are willing to try it anyway…

So your client comes in and complains that someone defamed them on the internet.  You put on your Super Lawyer cape and rush in to save the day.  No problem, you’ll walk through the litigation, get a court order that tells Google to remove, block or otherwise de-index the content from their search engine and, viola!  Problem solved, right?  WRONG.

While I sort of eluded to these issues in my blog article troubles with defamatory online reviews and content scrapers, just because search engines like Google will agree to de-index (which arguably, at least in the United States, they are under no obligation to do thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) doesn’t mean that the content goes away.  Indeed, it remains alive in many ways:

  1. The complaint that you filed, which contained the alleged defamatory language and or copies of the alleged defamatory postings is STILL part of the public court record and, in theory, always will be – most of which is accessible online;
  2. The website that hosts the alleged defamatory content may refuse (rightfully under the current US laws) to remove the content regardless of whether or not it is found to be defamatory;
  3. Google might “de-index” but they pretty much give people a road map on where to find the information via the Lumen Database and provide, where applicable, the supporting documents like a court order which, if people are smart and interested, they can find more information about the litigation through court records; and
  4. Under most privilege laws, one could write a story about the court case, even repeating verbatim the defamatory language right out of the court record, without penalty.

Indeed, if you search out a particular name in Google, and you see, at the bottom of the search results a statement about the matter having been removed from the search engine links, chances are, someone had information removed for some reason.  Typically a link to the Lumen Database is provided by Google and parties can click on that link to learn more about why the information was removed and what links were subject to being removed from the search results.

Depending on the situation, this “de-indexing” may not even last that long.  All a website has to do, if they were so inclined, is to update the URL and that would render the original URL de-index essentially useless.  The party who submit the information would then have to go back and try again by either getting another court order or resubmitting what they have to Google again – but then it could become a game of whack-a-mole and for what? The information is STILL available anyway.

I completely understand wanting to find a solution for relief for those that have genuinely been harmed online but I think there needs to be a shift from trying to bury and cover things up to providing A LOT more education regarding these issues (why people should be leery of what they read online, ways to not get themselves into these problems in the first place, constructive ways of handling issues) and perhaps, as I said recently, come up with harsher punishment for internet defamers.

Until next time friends…

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

 

Should websites be able to raise objections on behalf of their anonymous users? A California Appellate Court thinks so – Glassdoor v. Superior Court (Machine Zone, Inc.)

While I sometimes think that the California courts can get things wrong, e.g. Hassell v. Bird (2016) 247 Cal.App.4th 1336, rev. granted, (thank goodness) they also, in my opinion, can get things right.  On March 10, 2017, the Sixth Appellate Court for Santa Clara County, California in the matter of Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County (Machine Zone, Inc.), under Case No H042824, concluded that Glassdoor  (a website in which workers can post their own reviews about past or current employers) has standing, i.e, the authority, to assert an anonymous user’s interest in maintaining his anonymity against Machine Zone’s efforts to compel Glassdoor to identify him/her.  Can I get a fricken hallelujah!

Clearly I am elated by this ruling.  This is not only good for people who write honest reviews but also for websites that allow third parties to post content on their websites.  In my line of work I have seen parties file claims against anonymous authors sometimes alleging causes of action that wouldn’t even stand up to basic case analysis of the statute of limitations let alone anything more complicated like ensuring they have met the requirements that are necessary under state law in order for a website to release and anonymous author’s identifying information.  These parties will then submit their subpoena or some form of discovery order to a third-party website like Glassdoor and demand production of the identifying author information.  If the website’s subpoena compliance department is lead by anyone like me, chances are they have an entire checklist of criteria for their respective state that must be met prior to production.  Here in Arizona the controlling law is Mobilisa v. Doe (App. 2007) 217 Ariz. 103, 114-15, 170 P.3d 712, 723-24.  Mobilisa requires that a requesting party show: 1) that the anonymous author has been given adequate notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond to the discovery request (which itself has specific requirements that have to be adhered to); 2) that the requesting party’s cause of action could survive a motion for summary judgment on the elements of the claim not dependent on the identify of the anonymous author (and that requires more than laying out a mere prima facie case); and 3) a balance of the parties’ competing interests needs to favor disclosure.  Indeed, Mobilisa sets out some hoops that requesting parties have to jump through in order to try and protect the rights of an anonymous author and if requesting parties don’t conform, chances are that subpoena is going to be met with objection.

While I haven’t seen it all that often, I can think of a few instances where counsel was met with my objections and they tried to argue that the website lacked standing to raise such objections.  Typically I find this to be the biggest cop out – nothing more than an effort to circumvent the rules – especially when they are met with legitimate objections like statute of limitations or failure to meet other requirements.  Many websites, like Glassdoor, will fight this if challenged and I’m pleased to see this outcome.

Absolutely the anonymous author has their rights and can assert them on their own behalf but there are many reasons why an author may not stand up and defend.  What if the author doesn’t get notice of the matter?  I have personally seen some suspicious activities going on in the past and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh and Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney Paul Alan Levy have helped raised awareness about many of the same concerns that I have had.  Take for example their Washington Post article which discusses “Dozens of suspicious court cases, with missing defendants, aim at getting web pages taken down or deindexed.”  What if the author lacks the knowledge to even understand that they have a defense?  The minute that a lawsuit gets filed defendants tend to get scared – especially if they are not in a solid financial position.  It’s not uncommon for an author to stand behind their story but fear the litigation and so they bury their head in the sand in hopes that the matter will “go away.”  They may not even consider the fact that they have a defense.  It’s not as if many people have legal knowledge -even the basics – and legal departments of websites can’t be giving people legal advice.  What if the author told the truth and cant afford a defense?   Here again I am aware of a situation where a person wrote a review – alleged that the story was truthful, but got sued in another state over the posting and couldn’t afford to appear and defend the situation in the other state.  How is that justice?  I’m sorry ma’am/sir – your right to free speech is only to the extent your pocket book can pay for a defense?  

Now I’m not suggesting that websites take on the litigation defense of all of their users – that would not be economically feasible.  Websites usually have no unique knowledge that would put them in a position to argue truth as a defense or anything like that.  However, I think websites who want to help protect their anonymous authors should have the ability to stand up to those who may be simply trying to take advantage of an anonymous author’s vulnerabilities through basic objections.  If you are making claims that are so far outside the statute of limitations it isn’t even funny, OBJECTION.  You’re case couldn’t stand on it’s own anyway.  If you aren’t following the correct process under the applicable law to ensure that an author has the appropriate notice and reasonable opportunity to defend, OBJECTION.  You can always attempt to cure the deficiencies and try again.  If you can’t – well, then you probably don’t have much of a case in the first place.  It’s a whole lot easier for a website’s legal department or subpoena compliance department to look at a situation and say “Nope, try again…” or “Nope, not happening…” than it is for a user to try and teach themselves the law or hire expensive counsel (face it – even the cheap attorneys aren’t “cheap”) to teach them the law and make the same objections on their behalf – within a short period of time.

I am so glad that the Glassdoor court recognized some of these issues and considered the potential for chilling effects on free speech.  As the Court points out in Glassdoor, “…some attacks on anonymity may be mounted for their in terrorem effect on potential critics.” Glassdoor at p.12.  This is a fantastic ruling and you can review the entire 33 page ruling below or by clicking HERE.

Until next time friends…

Statute of Limitations is a real thing and why you, a client, should understand it.

In the last couple of weeks I have seen an increasing amount of demand letters threatening litigation or actual lawsuits based on alleged claims that are far outside of the statute of limitations.  A statute of limitations is the law which defines a period of limitation for bringing certain types of legal actions.  Most statute of limitations are between one (1) year and six (6) years depending on the claim.  When a lay person doesn’t know and sends the demand letter or files the complaint I can kind of understand that.  Some people don’t even think about things like that.  While ignorance of the law isn’t a real excuse, it is often looked at with a softer lens by many.  When it is an attorney who does this kind of stuff – I’m sorry, it’s absolutely not excusable.  Indeed, I have seen MANY attorneys make this mistake and it upsets me – not only because it makes other attorneys in the profession look bad but I also feel for the attorney’s client who probably paid for that mistake because they didn’t know better.

An attorney should not be taking a client’s hard earned money to draft a meritless demand letter or complaint!  If your attorney is worth their weight in salt they will spend the time necessary to do the research and will be honest and tell you when your case has no merit… not just take your money and set YOU up for failure.  In fact, such conduct isn’t in line with the Professional Rules of Conduct.  While states typically have their own rules of professional conduct, also known as the Rules of Ethics, it is pretty clear that the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.1, says this kind of crap is a no-no.  See the pertinent excerpt below:

Advocate
Rule 3.1 Meritorious Claims And Contentions

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law…

It seems that the moment someone feels wronged  in some way someone, that person’s first line of thinking tends to be  “I’m gonna sue!”  I see that written and posted online all over the place or hear it in general conversation.  The problem is there are indeed times when you don’t have the legal standing to sue.  Some of the first questions to your attorney should include:

  1. What kinds of claims might I have given my situation?
  2. What are the applicable Statute of Limitations to those claims?
  3. Are any of my claims within those Statute of Limitations?
  4. Are there any viable exceptions to those Statute of Limitations?

If the answers regarding question nos. three and/or four above is “NO” then don’t ask your attorney to draft a demand letter threatening legal action for those claims and certainly don’t ask them to draft a complaint anyway.  Similarly, don’t let your attorney talk you into drafting a demand letter threatening litigation or actually filing a  meritless complaint.  You will only be footing the bill to fail – and filing fees, process server fees, and the time that your attorney will charge you to draft the bogus letter or complaint will only hurt YOUR pocket book.  And, to add salt to the wound, there is a chance that the Defendant could turn around and sue both you, and your attorney, for malicious prosecution.  It happens…and you could end up paying for not only your attorney’s fees BUT the attorneys’ fees of the other party as well.

Long story short – know the statute of limitations for bringing claims and don’t waste time and resources on frivolous demand letters and complaints.  It will save you a lot of time, money and other resources in the end.

If you are in Arizona, and have questions about statute of limitations for a particular claim in Arizona, feel free to contact me.

 

 

Your Kids Cyber-bullying? Eventually You Could be Held Responsible.

In my blog series Fighting Fair on the Internet I have been writing in general about the varying problems I see with use of the internet.  After all, given my unique position and area of law I work in, I have had the opportunity to see all kinds of situations that most people never even think about.  Seriously – the good, bad, and the ugly – I see all of it.  And why do I write about it?  Because everyday I see people making stupid mistakes that eventually end up coming back to haunt them in one way or another and because I think education on these issues, raising awareness, plays a key part in reducing the amount of problems I see.

A colleague of mine showed me an NBC Miami article where Central Florida attorney Mark O’Mara was considering writing law that would give law enforcement officials the ability hold parents accountable for the bad things their kids were doing online.  In response to an arrest back in 2013 of two girls in a Florida bullying and suicide investigation, attorney O’Mara wrote on his blog:

The question is this: is their ignorance and apathy about their daughter’s cyber-bullying criminal? Under our current laws, it looks like the answer is “no.” Should that sort of willful blindness or gross negligence be criminal? I think it should, and here’s why: if a child kills someone while operating a parent’s car, the parents can be held responsible. If a child kills someone while using a parent’s gun, the parent can be held responsible. If a child breaks the law using a computer or cellphone provided by the parent, how is that different?

If you ask me, I am already all for harsher punishment for internet defamers and harassers so his argument makes sense.  That is, of course, so long as the punishment is reasonable but yet has enough teeth to ensure that parents actually monitor and pay some level of attention to what their kids are doing online.  If you are a parent, you SHOULD be monitoring what your kids are doing – not just to keep yourself out of trouble but to protect your child from all the dangers online (physical, mental, and legal).

After my first presentation to high school students regarding internet use and the repercussions from the same, it was abundantly clear that a lot more education was needed.  I went as far as explaining to the students that after my presentation they probably knew more than their parents did – after all, most of us old enough to have teenagers really didn’t have internet growing up and we especially didn’t have social media.  I encouraged students to go home and talk with their parents about what they learned…because not all advice that kids get from their parents is the best – especially when it comes to online issues.

As some food for thought, according to the Cyberbullying Research Institute, 48 states, plus Washington, DC, have laws that include cyber-bullying or online harassment.  Out of those states, 44 of them have criminal sanctions for cyber-bullying or electronic harassment.  Some information regarding the different state laws on these issues can be found here.  Similarly, just remember that “anonymous” doesn’t really mean “anonymous.”  In most cases, your identifying information is only one or two well written subpoenas away.

Long story short, with the continuing increase of use of the internet, don’t be surprised when laws start being enacted to hold parents liable for the wrongs of their children.  Want to be proactive and learn more for yourself, your kids, or even for a group?  Contact me!  See my contact page for more information.

Have thoughts on this to share?  Share them in the comments below!