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UrbanLip.com v. Lereve Skin Institute (Higbee Client v. Pro Se Defendant)

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Matthew Chan:
I was made aware of an ongoing lawsuit, UrbanLip.com vs. Lereve Skin Institute. It caught my interest because it is a Higbee client suing a Pro-Se Defendant. I am always intrigued to see how a pro-se defendant defends themselves. It can be painful rubber-necking experience.


The docket thus far appears to show a bunch of clerical errors (deficiencies) made by someone at the Higbee office. That, in itself, seems a tad embarrassing. It took 13 entries to get the lawsuit off the ground and overcome the deficiencies.

Interestingly, once Urbanlip filed the complaint on Sept. 25, the defendant Lereve wasted no time and filed an answer on October 15, 2018. In fact, I am not sure Lereve was even officially served but Lereve answered promptly. It saved Higbee and Urbanlip the expense of hiring a process server.



A cursory reading of the complaint seems to indicate this all began in 2012 when Urbanlip purportedly discovered infringements.  But they didn't pursue litigation during that time frame. However, it seems that earlier this year, the matter was revived when Urbanlip purportedly found additional infringements. It appears this time around, they were not going to let this go.

In reading Leveres' answer, it appears this is is a small business which has been a bit sloppy and haphazard in its image management. However, it also shows that they appeared to make substantial efforts and bought many photos from Masterfile.

There are assertions that the infringements from 2012 was from another company, Merveille, that ultimately dissolved/suspended in 2013, not not the current corporation Levere. The assertion is that the current owner, Yu, worked for another Merveille (with not shareholder interest) in a marketing capacity in a similar line of business and entirely rejects the idea that she was personally liable for any such infringements.

Fast forward to 2018, Yu is now an owner of Lereve (current defendant), and purportedly uses Shutterstock as well as images from real patients and rejects Urbanlip's assertion that Yu had previously infringed upon Urbanlip's images.

Big picture, Urbanlip believes Yu has culpability because of her roles at both companies. Merveille appears to be a short-lived venture that folded up fairly quickly.  And Lereve appears to be a very small business as well since Yu, the owner, has undertaken the burden to represent herself and the corporation and not hire a lawyer. That is a good indication that the company has few assets and not well capitalized.

Higbee's lawyer, Ryan Carreon, is rightfully contesting Yu's ability to represent the corporation. Only lawyers can represent corporations. Yu will have to decide whether or not it is worth hiring a lawyer to represent this small corporation which may have few meaningful assets.

However, it seems evident that Yu is determined to represent herself and has done so. In the Dec. 3, Joint Report of Early Meeting, it is unsurprising that both parties seem motivated to settle the matter.


It seems that Urbanlip believes there are far more assets and profits with Levere than Yu asserts and there is a dispute in the amount to settle for.

Certainly, Urbanlip has the upperhand in terms of legal maneuvers but I wonder how much endurance they have to continue going after a determined pro se defendant with very limited legal experience. It has to be a painful experience for Carreon. Lawyers have to exercise extra care in how they treat pro se defendants or there can be blowback if they take unfair advantage. Lawyers have great exposure if they try sneaky stuff.

Carreon has asked for the right of discovery but small businesses are notorious for being disorganized and having scattered records even with the best of intentions. Certainly, Urbanlip will prevail in principle in discovery requests but I have seen up close the operation of many small businesses. It is like making sausage, you never really want to see how sausage is made.

I wonder how much time and energy Carreon and Urbanlip really want to spend on this messy case. It is clear Yu is not legally experienced and stumbling her way through the process. In my non-lawyer view with very limited information on Levere, the important thing Yu needs to really defend is herself personally. If Yu has worked and operated on behalf of Levere and a paid employee, chances are Levere will be held responsible for the mishaps/sloppiness of its contractors, not Yu personally. If Levere is found to have infringed, then so be it. Get the empty judgment.

I know some people might think the corporation needs to be defended at all costs but in my own life experience, I have and heard of many small investors and small business owners over the years abandon their corporations by not paying the annual fee forcing the state to administratively dissolve a corporation.

I give Yu a lot of credit fighting this herself.  But, there's a simple way of getting this case kicked.  If the discovery of these images occurred in 201 as the complaint says, that's when the clock started to file a lawsuit.  That means the case SOL ends in 2015 no matter the merits of the case.  This was filed this year 2018 three years too late.  I don't think Yu knows that. 

Ethan Seven:
I doubt any semi-competent attorney would file a complaint based on a claim that is outside the SOL.  So... I read the fact section of the complaint.   Thank you for the link Mr. Chan.  The Defendant used the images first in 2012 for one corporation and then more recently used them with a different corporation.   The latter use is distinct for purposes of the SOL.   The Plaintiff is relying on the latter. 

Representing oneself in pro per takes an abundance of one of two things, guts or ignorance.  One way or another, it is usually entertaining. 

Matthew Chan:
Speaking from personal experience of self-representation a few times over the years, a touch of craziness and insanity also!   ;) ;) ;)  ;D ;D ;D 

I am happy to say that I am still alive to talk about it.

Regarding this case, I ultimately think it will get settled out as most pro se cases do. It is all a matter of when and how.

--- Quote from: Ethan Seven on December 11, 2018, 05:42:41 PM ---Representing oneself in pro per takes an abundance of one of two things, guts or ignorance.  One way or another, it is usually entertaining.

--- End quote ---


--- Quote from: Ethan Seven on December 11, 2018, 05:42:41 PM ---I doubt any semi-competent attorney would file a complaint based on a claim that is outside the SOL.  So... I read the fact section of the complaint.   
--- End quote ---

Then Higbee must be semi-competent. 


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