Georgia dentist was indicted for, among other things, repeatedly striking patients with a dental instrument to make them keep quiet when they yelled out in pain because he had not anesthetized them sufficiently; he was reportedly worried that other patients, outside in the waiting room, would become alarmed. The criminal proceedings attracted attention in the local news media, and in 2009, an anonymous consumer created a YouTube page where she posted a copy of a two-part series about the case from a local TV station. Six years later, the dentist filed a libel suit against the anonymous poster, and issued a California subpoena to Google seeking to identify the Doe.
Public Citizen filed a motion to quash the subpoena, contending that even if the dentist were to present evidence showing that the video posted by the Doe made false statement about him, the statute of limitations for a libel claim ran five years ago, and in any event section 230 of the Communications Decency Act forbids holding Doe liable for content provided by another. In addition, we asked for an award of attorney fees under a California statute, enacted to close the gap created by our loss on the attorney fees issue in Tendler v. Doe, that provides for awards of attorney fees when a litigant in a different state obtains subpoena to identify an anonymous speaker but the subpoena is quashed. After the motion to quash was filed, Austin’s counsel agreed to withdraw his subpoena, dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice and pay our attorney fees.