Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sang v. Hai

A Chinatown attorney Mr. Ming Hai's failed to block a lawsuit (12 Civ. 7103) against himself. The US District court for Southern District of New York ruled a complaint filed by his former client would move ahead.

What is interesting is that one of the legal grounds Mr. Hai suggested was First-to-File Doctrine. Mr. Hai argued that the federal case should be thrown out because he had sued his former client first in a state court. However, the doctrine is about cases filed in federal court, not for cases filed concurrently in a federal court and a state court. It's shocking to hear an attorney either wished the court didn't understand this simple and commonly referred doctrine or actually himself did not know.

The plaintiff alleged Mr. Hai defamed her when he made public statement through blogs and interviews, saying San was a thief, sexually irresponsible to her own dog, and made romantic advances on him.

The court did dismissed an allegation that Mr. Hai had breached fiduciary duty when he disseminated confidential information he obtained through client-attorney relationship to the press. The court noted that although Mr. Hai might have violated professional conduct rules, it did not raise to the level of a cause of action.

Also interesting was the invasion of privacy claim regarding Sang's photographs posted by Mr. Hai in his Tencent Micro-blog, a tweeter-like service in China. General population in China hold an over sensitive stance on using personal portrait without explicit consent. Chinese law is very vague, but the courts have consistently sided with the plaintiffs in privacy cases. The US law separates commercial usage from editorial usages, and usually recognize press privilege and rights in free speech. The district court, however, agreed with Sang Lan that Mr. Hai's blog was used to promote his business thus 'not newsworthy'. Therefore, the court denied Mr. Hai's motion to dismiss the invasion of privacy claim.

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