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Hernandez v. IGE CaptionVirtual property company Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) has changed the law firm that is defending IGE (.pdf) in a Florida class action case, Hernandez v. IGE. IGE is now represented in that case by James M. Miller of Akerman Senterfitt. Prior to changing counsel, IGE was represented in the Hernandez case by several attorneys at Foley & Lardner, LLP. Neither Foley or Akerman represented either of the IGE founders in a messy California dispute that was recently, tentatively, settled.

Substitution of counsel can happen for any number of reasons including cost of representation, familiarity with local courts, and disagreements over tactics. Foley & Lardner, who formerly represented IGE in this case, is a larger firm with a stronger national presence, but Akerman is well-known in the Miami area and has a much larger footprint in southern Florida. IGE may have been hoping to find a firm with stronger ties to the local legal system, particularly in light of an announcement earlier this year that the Florida Attorney General’s office had opened an investigation into IGE’s gold farming activity, business dealings in Florida, relationship with other companies, and more. Neither the attorneys for IGE nor for Hernandez responded to emailed requests for comment.

For the background of this suit, see Virtually Blind’s complete coverage of Hernadez v. IGE. Very briefly, the suit involves an (as yet uncertified) class of users, led by Antonio Hernandez, suing virtual property dealer IGE for diminishing the World of Warcraft game experience through chat spam, gold farming, spawn camping, and other undesirable activity that arguably breaks Blizzard’s World of Warcraft Terms of Use. The legal theory behind the suit is that all World of Warcraft players are third-party beneficiaries of the Terms of Use, a contract between Blizzard and each of its players, including agents of IGE. Blizzard has publicly said it supports the suit, which could be critical in defining all players as “intended beneficiaries” of the Terms of Use, one step necessary to establish liability on the part of IGE under this theory.

Trial is currently scheduled for August 4, 2008, but the parties already appear to be behind the court’s anticipated schedule for discovery and motions, and substitution of counsel sometimes extends a case’s schedule if the new firm seeks and is granted additional time to get up to speed.

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