Civil Procedure Fun!

For those of you who are not lawyers, you can play too.

A plaintiff files a defamation lawsuit. The plaintiff lives in California. The defendant lives in California too — in fact, just a few miles from the plaintiff. Where do you file the suit?

A) California
B) California, because you are not an imbecile
C) California, because you are not an imbecile, and you have ethics
D) Virginia

If you answered D, you are “Internet defamation lawyer” Domingo J. Rivera!!!! (Or a reasonable facsimile).

Okay, so what am I talking about?

Public Citizen reports:

Usha Rajagopal, a San Francisco cosmetic surgeon, has tried to use cosmetic surgery of a legal sort to improve the appearance of her online reviews. She is under discipline by the California Medical Board because of the sloppy administration of anesthesia that put one of her patients in a vegetative state. She was also the subject of a devastating article in the San Francisco Weekly which explained that glowing reviews that helped give Rajagopal a favorable ranking on Google search for plastic surgeons in San Francisco, with five stars suggesting that her patients love her, are the product of her having hired a firm that wrote phony reviews.

Not satisfied by adding favorable reviews, Dr. Rajagopal is apparently intent on extirpating negative reviews as well. After several members of the public placed comments on Google maps about her situation, Rajagopal sued the commenters as Doe defendants, alleging defamation, in an apparent effort to remove the negative comments from her public profile. (source)

Public Citizen filed a motion to quash Rajagopal’s attempt to unmask her anonymous critics.  Here’s the Complaint in the case.

This is why I give money to Public Citizen, and you should too.

8 Responses to Civil Procedure Fun!

  1. Mike says:

    Have you seen a copy of the Complaint? I’m curious to see the statement of jurisdiction. It seems obvious that they filed in VA to avoid getting SLAPPE’ed. Still curious what they allege as a basis for jurisdiction.

  2. NG says:

    Crap, I thought the answer was E) the United Kingdom.

  3. Jay says:

    Wow. Has this doctor never heard of the Streisand effect? I fully expect people now to flock to the underlying article about her alleged astroturf reviews.

    As noted in the brief, the Courts of Virginia would still apply California law, even if they had jurisdiction. Anti-SLAPP counterclaim is still possible. Heck, the John Doe should self-identify and file an Anti-SLAPP suit in California, then move to tranfer for purposes of consolidation under FRCP 42.

  4. andrews says:

    I followed the link to his web site, in which he talks about how “an internet defamation lawyer with our firm” can do all sorts of amazing things.

    Oddly enough, despite several such efforts to give the impression of a large stable of lawyers, the listing of “Attorneys” shows only one.

    Regrettably, judging from the complaint and from the web site, I express no opinion as to the quality of the attorneys or whether the advertising is misleading.

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