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Judge: ACS Law's conduct was "chaotic and lamentable"

Judge's gavel

By Barry Collins

Posted on 18 Apr 2011 at 11:15

File-sharing lawyers ACS Law are facing a massive costs bill after a judge labelled the firm's conduct as "chaotic and lamentable".

The Patents County Court today handed down a judgement on whether 27 people accused of illegal file-sharing by the law firm could recover their legal costs. ACS Law and its client - pornography distributor Media CAT - dropped the cases before a crucial court hearing, prompting the defendants to apply for wasted legal costs.

There is a prima facie case of unreasonable conduct by ACS Law in relation to the Notices

In his judgement, Judge Birss said he was "quite satisfied" that the application for wasted costs was justified, and was highly critical of the conduct of ACS Law's sole solicitor, Andrew Crossley.

The judge noted that ACS Law had continued to send demands for out-of-court settlements to accused file-sharers, even while dropping the cases against the 27 accused in court.

"ACS Law knew perfectly well that Media CAT intended the letter writing campaign to be pressed ahead with despite the court being told that the Notices of Discontinuance were being used in order for the claimant to give the matter further consideration," said Judge Birss.

"That finding provides further support for my finding that there is a prima facie case of unreasonable conduct by ACS Law in relation to the Notices.”

Improper conduct

The judge was highly critical of the law firm's methods, adding that the lawyers taking a large cut of the revenue from the out-of-court settlements was "prima facie improper conduct".

“ACS Law’s conduct was chaotic and lamentable," the judge ruled. "Documents which plainly should have been provided were not provided. This was not the behaviour of a solicitor advancing a normal piece of litigation. I do not doubt that this led to unnecessarily incurred costs.”

He added that there were other examples of "conduct by ACS Law which, at best, can be described as amateurish and slipshod”.

The costs application will now move onto a second stage, where ACS Law will have the chance to raise further evidence of why costs shouldn't be awarded against the firm.

It's not clear whether the defendants will have anyone to reclaim costs from, however. Both ACS Law and Media CAT closed for business earlier this year.

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User comments

They'll be lucky...

...to get any money back. I'll bet that ACS Law will go into administration only to reappear six months later as 'Law ACS' or another name. Companies can easily worm their way out of their responsibilities - unlike the general public.

By everton2004 on 18 Apr 2011

Read the full article first!!

Just read the last sentences after posting - so they already have wormed their way out of it. A major change in law is needed to prevent these leeches getting away with murder then running for the hills when they get found out. CEOs/the Board or equivalent should be held legally accountable and assets should be seized to aid recovery of costs from the victims of these con artists.

By everton2004 on 18 Apr 2011

Misunderstanding

There is no CEO, there is no board and ACS law cannot go into administration. ACS law is Andrew Crossley, trading as ACS law. It is not an limited liability partnership or a company- Crossley is personally liable for any judgement, the business of ACS law was him. So, if Crossley fails to pay any judgement, his creditors can bankrupt him, thus precluding him from working as a solicitor. If he has any assets, they could have them seized. Many may say it is just desserts......

By legalbegal on 18 Apr 2011

But.... what's really changed?

There's no definitive ruling on using an IP address as the identifying information, no ruling to block such demand for payment campaigns in future, the digital economy bill is still in parliament despite this case pointing out its futility and, most farcical of all; the industry hasn't woken up and smelled the coffee.

Speaking specifically of US film companies, there is still no interest in releasing films to the public for download after accepting payment.

Nothing has changed except one bloke has been defeated in one instance in court.

It doesn't mean others won't follow his actions or that real change will occur to change the way content is offered to paying customers.

By bubbles16 on 20 Apr 2011

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