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Federal Court Throws Out Five Out of Six Claims Brought By Ogletree against FindLaw
In a matter in which Ogletree, Abbot, Clay & Reed Law Firm had sued FindLaw for not living up to its promises regarding redesigning of its website and search engine optimization, the U.S. District Court, Minnesota, dismissed five out of six claims for being vague and allowed only one. Ogletree had sued FindLaw, West Publishing Corporation and Thomson Reuters Holdings Inc.
The order read, Ogletree had alleged that it had hired the defendants to develop three of the law firm's websites but, "Rather than enhance the quality of the websites, Ogletree alleges Findlaw diminished it and injured Ogletree's business a result."
The instant order was made in response to FindLaw's move to dismiss five of the six claims brought against it. While those in the web and SEO industry might be surprised by the order, in large, five claims brought by Ogletree were dismissed for lacking specificity.
This happened even though Ogletree specifically mentioned, as the order noted that "Ogletree alleges FindLaw did not utilize and migrate all of the existing indexed content and webpages from the original Ogletree Websites to the revised sites ...the number of indexed webpages was reduced from 612 pages to 184 pages on www.ogletreeabbot.com, from 598 to 81 on www.1800jonesact.com, and from 1,358 to 156 on www.complawyers.net"
Further, the order notes, "Ogletree alleges that FindLaw ignored its webpage-naming conventions, creating error messages when users followed inbound links set to the prior page names ... complawyers.net contained 234 "page not found" errors."
Most surprisingly, Ogletree also alleged that "it told FindLaw not to place outbound links on its websites, but in October 2013, it discovered that FindLaw had "secretly inserted at least one outbound link on every page of the Ogletree websites which were directed to FindLaw's website."
Ogletree paid FindLaw $61, 965.69 for its services. The law firm alleged that "FindLaw "misrepresented that it 'produces results' with 'custom content' developed by 'expert copy writers' and a 'dedicated team of attorney SEO experts' but FindLaw outsources to Bangalore, India ..."
Largely, accepting FindLaw's arguments, the court concurred that in alleging fraud or mistake, "a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake ... a plaintiff must pled the 'who, what where, when, and how' of the alleged fraud in order "to enable the defendant to respond specifically and quickly to the potentially damaging allegations."
The court held that Ogletree had failed to meet the standards of bringing claims with specificity when alleging fraud and that Ogletree had made "vague and conclusory allegations."
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