Court Dismisses “Shotgun Pleading” Antitrust Complaint Filed Against Google

On Sept. 25, a federal court in Atlanta dismissed a lawsuit filed by Inform, Inc. against numerous Google entities: Google LLC, Google Inc., Alphabet Inc., YouTube LLC, YouTube Inc., and John Does. The November 2019 complaint alleged various Sherman Act and Clayton Act violations as well as tortious interference, supposedly stemming from “Google’s pattern of anticompetitive practices (that) has thwarted competition on the merits and excluded Inform and other Google competitors from the relevant markets.”

According to the court’s order, Inform is a “digital media advertising company that provides a platform of services to online publishers, content creators and online advertisers.” Inform reportedly competes with Google in the online video advertising market and complained that “Google has effectively put Inform out of business as a direct result of (its) illegal conduct.”

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that it is a “shotgun pleading,” that the plaintiff lacks standing, and that the filing failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In the court’s six-page opinion, District Judge J. P. Boulee’s analysis opened with a quote from an authority that explained, “courts in the Eleventh Circuit have little tolerance for shotgun pleadings.”

In determining that the complaint was a “quintessential” shotgun pleading, Judge Boulee described how the 105-page submission was confusingly constructed, where a reader was required “to identify and sift through over 190 paragraphs that are incorporated into each count and then parse through numerous allegations to identify those that have some relevance to a particular defendant or cause of action.” The court also held that the complaint contained “conclusory, vague and immaterial facts that (did) not clearly connect to a particular cause of action” and that the filing did not specify which defendant was responsible for which act.

The court declined to dismiss with prejudice, instead offering Inform a chance to refile an amended complaint by Oct. 9. In so allowing, the court also directed Inform to follow specific instructions to improve the readability and clarity of its next submission.

Inform is represented by Herman Jones LLP. The Google defendants are represented by Williams & Connolly and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.