Indianapolis, Indiana – Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore of the Southern District of Indiana has recommended that Plaintiff Patrick Collins, Inc.’s request to void the judgment entered as a result of Plaintiff’s two earlier requests for voluntary dismissal of Defendant Derrick Lund be denied.
[Full Disclosure – Overhauser Law Offices, the publisher of Indiana Intellectual Property Law News, represented the successful defendant in this case.]
Attorney Paul Nicoletti, copyright counsel for Plaintiff Patrick Collins, filed a complaint in June 2012 against thirteen “John Doe” Defendants identified only by their Internet Protocol addresses. Patrick Collins claimed that the Defendants had infringed upon its copyrighted films by downloading them using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing service. Defendant Derrick Lund was identified following a subpoena to his internet service provider.
Initially, Lund filed neither an answer nor any other pleading. Consequently, a default judgment was granted against him. What followed was a series of requests to the court by counsel for Patrick Collins that was characterized by the court as a “complicated procedural history.” On the day following the default judgment against Lund, Nicoletti filed a notice of voluntary dismissal against Lund, seeking to dismiss him with prejudice. On that same day, Nicoletti also filed an unopposed motion making the same request: to vacate the default judgment against Lund and to dismiss him with prejudice. Judge Pratt granted Patrick Collins’ motion the next day.
One day following Judge Pratt’s order, Patrick Collins filed a motion to withdraw the voluntary dismissal. The court granted this motion and reinstated Lund as an active Defendant. Lund filed a motion for reconsideration on Lund’s reinstatement. The court granted Lund’s motion and vacated its reinstatement order, finding that Lund had not been properly served.
In this current opinion, the court again considered Patrick Collins’ motion to withdraw its voluntary dismissal, asking “whether Plaintiff can just ‘withdraw’ this notice of dismissal.” The court answered, “[s]imply, the answer is no, as the dismissal [constituted] a final judgment.” Once the Plaintiff filed a notice of dismissal, “the case is closed and the plaintiff may not unilaterally withdraw or amend the notice.”
In its latest request to the court, Patrick Collins had neither cited Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor given reasons under this Rule that the judgment should be subject to vacatur. Instead, Plaintiff had simply argued that “the parties had not reached a settlement agreement and therefore the dismissal with prejudice was unintentional.”
Nonetheless, the court sua sponte considered whether the final judgment should be set aside under Rule 60(b). Again, the court was not inclined to grant the Plaintiff’s plea to void an order that the Plaintiff itself had requested. While Rule 60(b) permits the Plaintiff to ask the court to vacate a dismissal, relief from a final judgment is an extraordinary measure and may only be granted in the exceptional circumstances.
Rule 60(b) permits a court to relive a party from a final judgment, order or proceeding for the following reasons:
1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
2) newly discovered evidence;
3) fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
4) the judgment is void;
5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or
6) any other reason that justifies relief.
The court noted that “Plaintiff twice filed requests with the Court – each filing being hours apart – to not only dismiss the action against Lund, but to dismiss it with prejudice. These filings show an unequivocal intent to dismiss Lund with prejudice.” Magistrate Judge Dinsmore concluded that Patrick Collins had not demonstrated “how its argument amounts to mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect” and recommended that Judge Pratt deny Plaintiff’s motion to withdraw voluntary dismissal.
Practice Tip #1: This case highlights the distinction between a dismissal “with prejudice” and “without prejudice.” The opinion focuses on whether Plaintiff Patrick Collins, Inc. could obtain “relief” from its own dismissal. Why would a litigant need “relief” from a court order granting its own motion? Because the dismissal was “with prejudice,” meaning that Patrick Collins was not allowed to simply file a second suit asserting the same claim. Because the dismissal was “with prejudice,” the defendant may be a considered a “prevailing party,” even though a judgment was never entered in either party’s favor. Nonetheless, because the Copyright Act allows a “prevailing party” to recover its attorney’s fees, the defendant can recover them.
Practice Tip #2: Patrick Collins, Inc. is represented by Paul Nicoletti, one of the country’s most notorious “copyright troll” attorneys. In addition to filing suits on behalf of Patrick Collins, Inc., he has also sued hundreds of defendants on behalf of copyright trolls Malibu Media, LLC and TCYK, LLC. (Search for these company names on this site to find articles about those other suits, or visit www.fightcopyrighttrolls.comor www.dietrolldie.com.)