Facebook is the Mount Everest of Intellectual Property litigation quests. It’s just so big! When the lawfirms in this case came across a potential client who just might own half of Facebook, all caution was forgotten. Sure, the plaintiff resided in the poorest county in New York, where there are more cows then people. Sure, he had a slightly deficient background or a cover story of how he might have owned a lot of facebook, but, gollly gee, It’s just so big!
Anyway, Facebook, Inc. v DLA Piper LLP (US) 2015 NY Slip Op 30764(U) May 11, 2015 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 653183/2014 Judge: Eileen A. Rakower is the result.
“This is an action for malicious prosecution and violation of New York Judiciary Law § 487 arising from various law firms and attorneys’ alleged participation in a fraudulent breach of contract lawsuit against plaintiffs, Facebook, Inc. (“Face book”) and Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (“Zuckerberg”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”). Non-party Paul Ceglia (“Ceglia”) filed the underlying breach of contract action in June 2010 in the Supreme Court of Allegany County, New York, under the caption, Paul D. Ceglia v. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg and Facebook, Inc., No. 1 O-cv-00569-RJA (W.D.N.Y.) (the “Ceglia Action”). Plaintiffs claim that Ceglia forged the purported contract document in issue in that case, and that defendants, DLA Piper (US) (“DLA Piper”), Christopher P. Hall (“Hall”), John Allcock (“Allcock”), Robert W. Brownlie (“Brownlie”), Gerard A. Trippitelli (“Trippitelli”) (and together with DLA Piper, Hall, Allcock, and Brownlie, the “DLA Defendants”), Paul Argentieri & Associates (“P A&A”), Paul A. Argentieri (“Argentieri”) (and together with PA&A, the “Argentieri Defendants”), Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP (“LMWF”), Dennis C. Vacco (“Vacco”), Kevin J. Cross (“Cross”) (and together with LMWF and Vacco, the “Lippes Defendants”), Milberg LLP (“Milberg”), Sanford P. Dumain (“Dumain”), and Jennifer L. Young (“Young”) (and together with Mil berg and Dumain, the “Mil berg Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”), are various law firms and attorneys who pursued the Ceglia Action, on Ceglia’s behalf, with knowledge that the subject document was forged.
Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that DLA Defendants and Lippes Defendants entered appearances for Ceglia in the Ceglia Action, “[ o ]n April I I, 20 I I-after (on information and belief) Marks and the Kasowitz lawyers had notified their co-counsel that they had discovered [evidence of forgery] on Ceglia’s [hard drive] and that Ceglia’s claims were fraudulent”. (Compl. if 62). Plaintiffs’ complaint further asserts: Also on April I 1, 201 I, Ceglia’s new team oflawyers filed a 25-page amended complaint (the “Amended Complaint”) that repeated Ceglia’s false claims. The Amended Complaint was signed by Hall of DLA Piper and also listed as counsel Allcock, Brownlie, and Trippitelli otDLA Piper; Vacco and Cross of Lippes Mathias; and Argentieri. Like the original Complaint, the Amended Complaint attached a ‘copy of the forged [contract document] as an exhibit, represented that the [this document] was authentic, and claimed that Zuckerberg had breached the purported contract. (Compl. if 63).
Turning now to Plaintiffs’ second cause of action, for violation of New York Judiciary Law § 487, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 487, any attorney or counselor who “is guilty of any deceit or collusion, or consents to any deceit or collusion, with intent to deceive the court or any party” is “guilty of a misdemeanor, and in addition to the punishment prescribed therefor by the penal law, he forfeits to the party injured treble damages, to be recovered in a civil action.” (Jud. Law § 487). Section 487′ s “evident intent” is “to enforce an attorney’s special obligation to protect the integrity of the courts and foster their truth-seeking function.” (Amalfitano v. Rosenberg, 12 N.Y.3d 8, 14 ). Thus, allegations that defendant deceived or attempted to deceive the court with fictitious documents may be sufficient to state a cause of action for violation of Judiciary Law § 487. (Maze! 315 W 35th LLC v. 315 W 35th Assoc. LLC, 120 A.D.3d 1106, 1107 [1st Dep’t 2014] 7 [* 7] [“Plaintiffs evidence showing that defendant presented false assignment documents for recordation in the City Register and sent a letter to the justice stating falsely that his client was the true owner of the notes and mortgages establishes an egregious act of intentional deceit of the court sufficient to support the cause of action.”]; Kur man v. Schnapp, 73 A.D.3d 435, 435 [1st Dep’t 2010] [“Plaintiff stated a cause of action under Judiciary Law § 487 by alleging that defendant deceived or attempted to deceive the court with a fictitious letter addressed to him from the former licensing director of the City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) that stated, inter alia, that plaintiff was under a lifetime ban on owning any licenses with the TLC.”]). Here, Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Moving Defendants maintained a breach of contract action as against Facebook and Zuckerberg even though Moving Defendants knew that the contract in issue in that action was a forgery. (Compl. ~~ 60-61, 67, 113 ). Plaintiffs’ complaint further alleges that Moving Defendants filed discovery motions and made arguments in court in reliance on the authenticity of a purported contract document that Moving Defendants knew to be forged. (Compl. irir 74-75; 95-96). Accepting Plaintiffs’ allegations as true and drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, Plaintiffs’ complaint adequately alleges that Moving Defendants deceived or attempted to deceive the court presiding over the Ceglia Action with fictitious documents. Accordingly, viewing Plaintiffs’ complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the four corners of Plaintiffs’ complaint are sufficient to state a cause of action for violation of Judiciary Law § 487 as against Moving Defendants, for purposes of surviving a motion to dismiss at this early stage of litigation.”