By Laura G. HaggertyA lawyer for the family of a child who died after an epileptic seizure was awarded $1.5 million in a landmark Supreme Court case, but lawyers for the state of Texas say that decision could cost them tens of thousands of dollars in lost cases.
The case is Harris v.
Doe, which is being heard by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Dallas.
A decision could result in billions of dollars of revenue for Texas.
The court case, filed by Texas attorney David Harris, alleges that Doe’s death was a result of his use of a copyrighted song.
In 2013, Doe, who was 13, suffered an epileptogenic seizure, which left him with the seizure disorder “with severe loss of consciousness and coma.”
His family sued, alleging that Doe had “a right to use and enjoy his song, including the unauthorized use of his likeness, without monetary compensation for its use.”
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013, but Harris appealed the ruling and in 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the family.
“The court of appeals erred in determining that Doe was entitled to recover damages from the defendants for the wrongful use of the defendants’ copyrighted work,” the U,S.
Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit wrote in the opinion.
The Texas lawsuit also argued that Doe “did not possess the requisite rights” to sue in the state courts.
“Even though the state court of Texas has recognized a ‘duty to indemnify’ a party who has been sued in a federal court for copyright infringements, Texas does not recognize a ‘right to indemnity’ as an exception to the duty to indemnification,” the ruling said.
The ruling did not address whether the family will receive a dollar or two from the state’s lawsuit.
Texas attorney David D. Harris is defending the lawsuit, but his firm has not filed a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
In a statement, Harris said the decision is a “step in the right direction for our clients” but said it does not necessarily mean that they would seek any money from the court.
“If a lawsuit is dismissed, the family is entitled to the same damages for any other reason, such as for pain or suffering or for the loss of employment,” Harris said.
“The family may also request that the court award damages in the form of punitive damages.”
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, who represents the state in the case, said he has no comment about the Supreme.
Harris’ lawyers argue that Doe never intended to sue and that he is not liable because the song was a work of art and not copyright.
A ruling on the lawsuit is expected soon.