The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I blogged Monday morning about how one of the suspicious Profile Defenders cases got dismissed last week by a Philadelphia judge and how another looks to be headed that way. And Monday evening I learned that yet another pending case that shares the same pattern—similar procedural strategy, similar language in the documents, similar lack of any connection between the ostensible defendant and the ostensible defendant's address in any public records—had been voluntarily dismissed, on the day that Paul Alan Levy and I put up our post on the subject.
That case is Carter v. Quinn, filed in Florida state court, and it seems to have been an attempt to get Google to deindex a Charleston Post & Courier article about a sex crime arrest (though note that the arrest might not have led to a conviction). The article went up in January 2014, but then in July 2016 a comment was posted to the article. (The comment has been deleted in the past few weeks, but the people at the Post & Courier assure me that it wasn't deleted by them.) And then just a few weeks later, the lawsuit was filed, claiming that the comment was defamatory and that the comment's author agreed to an injunction ordering the removal of the comment. The plan, I suspect, was to take any such injunction and submit it to Google as a basis for deindexing the whole article (because Google can't separately deindex the comment). Sometimes this sort of plan has worked.
The comment plays a peculiar role in such cases, I think. In one similarly structured case, for which I have been told what day the contract with the reputation management company (there, Profile Defenders) was signed, the comment was posted immediately after that signing, so I assume that comment was ginned up for the purposes of that lawsuit. I do not know for sure whether the same is true in this case, but, given the timing and the inability to find the defendant at the stated address, I suspect it might be.
I also do not know whether the ostensible plaintiff had indeed authorized the stratagem, or whether the plaintiff had expected the reputation management company to work its magic in legitimate ways. Some of the other plaintiffs in similar cases have said that they did not specifically authorize the lawsuits at all; the lawyer for one reported that the lawsuit was authorized but that they thought the defendant was indeed real.
For more on all this, please see our original post, which lays out our findings. I'm glad to see that this case has gone away, and I hope others will soon, too.