Righthaven Defendant Awarded $3,800 in Attorneys’ Fees–Righthaven v. Leon
By Eric Goldman
Judge Navarro ordered Righthaven to pay $3,815 to the attorneys for one of its defendants, Michael Leon. This award came about because Righthaven did not properly serve Leon’s complaint. In light of this, the court in April gave the parties a choice: Righthaven voluntarily dismisses the complaint without prejudice and pays attorneys’ fees, or Righthaven dismisses the case with prejudice and Leon gets nothing. The parties agreed to the latter. (It’s not clear from the record why Righthaven agreed to this solution). Leon retained the Randazza Legal Group on a pro bono basis to represent him at the April hearing. Because the Randazza firm came in pro bono and based on the parties’ discussions, it appears Righthaven assumed it was going to write a check to charity. Instead, the judge switched this up and put the money in the Randazza Legal Group’s pocket.
Because Righthaven had agreed to this payment previously, this fee award doesn’t represent a judicial condemnation of Righthaven’s practices. (That will come soon enough). Nevertheless, Righthaven’s failure to properly serve Leon is yet another costly but avoidable litigation error made by Righthaven. I don’t know if it’s their staff turnover, general incompetence or something else, but Righthaven has made a surprisingly high number of unforced errors for a company whose sole business is litigation.
Beyond this case, there are several pending Righthaven defendants’ motions for fee shifts under copyright’s fee shifting statutes. There are also some pending sanction motions against Righthaven that could further require Righthaven to pay the defendants. This case’s relatively small award of attorneys’ fees won’t break Righthaven’s bank, but I think it symbolically represents that Righthaven’s profitability has crested. Going forward, I predict Righthaven’s cash meter will start running in reverse with some frequency as judges make Righthaven write checks to its defendants. How many of those checks will Righthaven write before until it acknowledges that it has no chance of profitability?