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Shaky BitTorrent Claim Dismissed With Prejudice

Thursday, May 2, 2013
A copyright holder's motion for voluntary dismissal of an infringement claim without prejudice was unwarranted in a case in which a defendant would be prejudiced by losing the benefit of previous rulings favorable to him, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled April 23 (AF Holdings L.L.C. v. Navasca, N.D. Cal., No. 3:12-cv-02396-EMC, 4/23/13).

Judge Edward M. Chen found that AF Holdings L.L.C., was seeking to dismiss the case so as to avoid an adverse determination on the merits, as well as the adverse effect of other unfavorable, though not necessarily dispositive, rulings.

AF initiated this claim and others against unknown John Doe defendants, and identified the defendant in this case, Joe Navasca, through expedited discovery. Along the way, however, AF encountered rough going in a number of the cases, including skepticism over AF's standing and orders to post bonds. In this case, the court also expressed concern over the plaintiff's claims of evidence spoliation and its ability to prove that Navasca, one of six residents in the household where the IP address in issue was used, was the infringing culprit.

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41, a plaintiff can voluntarily dismiss its claim by notice without the court's intervention so long as the defendant has not filed an answer. But since Navasca had filed an answer here, a voluntary dismissal required court approval. The court granted AF's motion to dismiss, but with prejudice.

It was not impressed by AF's argument that it could not afford the bonds. “A plaintiff cannot invoke the benefits of the judicial system without being prepared to satisfy its obligations as a litigant.” The court said its order did not bar Navasca from filing a motion for attorneys' fees.

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