By David Hricik
Mercer Law School
A very long time ago, probably 1989 or so, I was involved in a case where a lawyer failed to identify a “related case” on a civil coversheet. Long story short, the plaintiff had filed suit in one jurisdiction (let’s say Iowa state court), and then filed a second suit in another jurisdiction (let’s say Ohio federal court). It waited to serve, and ended up serving the Ohio federal court suit, I guess because Ohio federal court was better than Iowa state court. However, at that time, the federal civil cover sheet asked if there were any pending cases — anywhere — and the lawyer had not listed any.
Probably nothing would have happened except the defendant, I surmise, learned of the Iowa state court before an important hearing in Ohio federal suit, and at that hearing the defendant’s counsel skillfully (it seemed to me) got the judge to ask questions about previously filed suits, and the attorney for the plaintiff said there had been none.
That resulted in sanctions, and even dissolution of a TRO that the plaintiff had obtained, if I recall it right.
Fast forward quite a number of years and a plaintiff’s lawyer filed a number of patent suits in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. 112 or so, it seems. The plaintiff’s lawyer filed five more suits in Delaware on the same three patents and, among other things, failed to identify any cases as related on the civil cover sheet. Judge Noreika dismissed the suits without prejudice and issued other directives to plaintiff’s counsel in Rondevoo Technologies, LLC v. Behold.AI Technologies, LLC, on May 5, 2020.
Of course, dismissals without prejudice don’t prevent re-filing, but I assume it costs another filing fee per case and, of course, it gives the defendant(s) time to file declaratory judgment actions in some other forum.
Hadn’t thought of that case from 30 years ago in a long time. I teach my students how to file a case, including a civil coversheet. I’ll have to keep this case around for a learning lesson as to why these forms matter.