Prince’s Briefcase: Hays v. Sony Corp of America (Glannon Civil Procedure)


Glannon Civil Procedure: Representations to the Court and Sanctions [Rule 11b & c(1)]

Here is a case from my Civil Procedure class which explains the importance of trial preparedness. And in this case we are taught that doing your homework is essential before you file a claim in federal court.

Case Name, Citation Number, Author
Hays v. Sony Corp of America, 847 F.2d 412 (7th Cir. 1988)

prince's briefcase (princesdailyjournal)Procedural History
Plaintiffs sued Sony for common law and statutory copyright infringement. The district court then granted Sony’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and then granted Sony’s Rule 11 motion (Go to Notes) for sanctions.

Facts
–Plaintiffs wrote a manual for operating their school’s Sony word processors and the school asked Sony to adapt that manual (plaintiff’s manual) for use with their word processors.
–Sony then, without charging the school, did not adapt to the plaintiff’s manual and the plaintiffs sued for common law and statutory copyright infringement.
–Plaintiffs sought damages and injunctive relief.
*The Federal Copyright statute, however, abolished common law copyright as of Jan 1, 1978–well before the events giving rise to plaintiffs claims.

Issue
Whether the plaintiffs’ lawyer reasonably researched both the facts and the law before filing copyright claims that were seemingly beyond his general experience?

Holding
No because the claim of infringement of a common law copyright was frivolous.

Reasoning
–Federal copyright statute already abolished common law copyright given rise to plaintiffs claim.
–Sony never obtained any profits from the sale or distribution of the manual–never sold it.
–Plaintiffs’ lawyer failed to present evidence that his clients had any plans for publishing their manual
–Plaintiffs’ lawyer failed to prove that his clients were eligible for punitive damages

Rule
In requiring reasonable evidence before the filing of any pleading in a civil case in federal district court, Rule 11 demands “an objective determination of whether a sanctioned party’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.” Rule 11 is like the negligence standard of torts.

Disposition
Rule 11 sanctions against Mr. Guyon (Plaintiff’s lawyer) affirmed.
Motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is affirmed

Notes
Rule 11(b): REPRESENTATIONS TO THE COURT. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper–whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it–an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances: (2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law.

Rule 11(c) SANCTIONS. (1) In General. If, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the court determines that Rule 11(b) has been violated, the court may impose an appropriate sanction on any attorney, law firm, or party that violated the rule or is responsible for this violation. Absent exceptional circumstances, a law firm must be held jointly responsible for a violation committed by its partner, associate, or employee. (2) Motion for Sanctions. A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). The motion must be served under Rule 5, but it must not be filed or be presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service or within another time the court sets. If warranted, the court may award to the prevailing party the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred for the motion.

Prince’s Takeaway
Do your homework before you file a copyright claim in federal court. Otherwise you claim will never get heard. However you can amend it, but only if it arises out of the same transaction of events!

All content is the property of Prince’s Daily Journal LLC, any use of distribution without express written permission is strictly prohibited. Copyright (c) 2013 All Rights Reserved

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