Old-School Defamation Lawsuit Filed Against Google–Phillips v. Google

By Eric Goldman

Phillips v. Google Inc., 3:2007-cv-01236 (N.D. Tex. complaint filed June 4, 2007; removed from state court July 11, 2007)

By now, it seems that most defamation plaintiffs know about 47 USC 230 when suing online intermediaries based on third party content. That doesn’t mean plaintiffs like it, but at least they usually try some creative argument to get around the statute. So it’s a little jarring nowadays to see a complaint by someone who either doesn’t know 47 USC 230 or doesn’t make any effort at all to get around it.

This lawsuit is such a case. The plaintiff is a Dallas businessman who claims that some news reports defamed him. His solution? Sue Google for indexing and linking to the third party articles. But the plaintiff goes out of his way to run directly into the 47 USC 230 brick wall, repeatedly saying that Google publishes the tortious content–just about the worse thing you can say if you’re trying to get around 47 USC 230!

For reasons unclear to me, Google removed the lawsuit from Texas state court to federal court rather than just filing a motion to dismiss in state court. (Maybe Google was concerned about the fairness of a Texas state court?). Even so, I assume a 12b6 motion to dismiss is coming instantly, and I don’t see how the judge can avoid granting it. Maybe sanctions will help the plaintiff understand the consequences of dragging immunized parties into court.