Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 39 v. Macy’s, Inc.
After its collective bargaining agreement with Macy’s expired, the parties were unable to agree on a new agreement. Local 39 called a strike and began picketing at Macy’s store. Macy’s filed suit, alleging that Local 39 had engaged in continuing and escalating unlawful misconduct at the store and sought injunctions preventing Local 39 from picketing at the store’s entrances, blocking ingress or egress, disturbing the public, threatening public safety, or damaging property. Macy’s also asked for damages.Local 39 filed an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, motion, arguing that the complaint alleged acts in furtherance of its right to free speech on a public issue and that Macy’s could not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits because the complaint did not satisfy Labor Code section 1138’s heightened standard of proof for claims arising out of labor disputes. The trial court granted Local 39’s motion in part. The court of appeal held that the trial court should have granted its first anti-SLAPP motion in full and ordered the entire complaint stricken. A labor organization cannot be held responsible or liable for the unlawful acts of individual officers, members, or agents, "except upon clear proof of actual participation in, or actual authorization of those acts.” Macy’s did not provide such proof. View "International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 39 v. Macy's, Inc." on Justia Law
Doe v. McLaughlin
In 2016, McLaughlin, the head of a business, was arrested based on an alleged domestic dispute with his former girlfriend, Olivia. In 2018, an Illinois court ordered all records in that case expunged, and the destruction of McLaughlin’s arrest records and photographs. McLaughlin sought an order of protection against Olivia. The terms of the parties’ subsequent settlement were incorporated in a judgment, which was sealed. Doe nonetheless posted multiple Twitter messages about McLaughlin’s arrest with McLaughlin’s mugshot, tagging McLaughlin’s business contacts and clients, and media outlets. Twitter suspended Doe’s accounts. The Illinois court issued a subpoena requiring the production of documents related to Doe’s Twitter accounts and issued “letters rogatory” to the San Francisco County Superior Court. Under the authority of that court, McLaughlin's subpoena was to be served on Twitter in San Francisco, requesting information personally identifying the account holders. In a motion to quash, Doe argued he had a First Amendment right to engage in anonymous speech and a right to privacy under the California Constitution. Doe sought attorney fees, (Code of Civil Procedure1987.2(c))The court of appeal affirmed orders in favor of McLaughlin. No sanctions were awarded. Doe failed to establish he prevailed on his motion to quash or that “the underlying action arises from [his] exercise of free speech rights on the Internet.” Doe presented no legally cognizable argument that McLaughlin failed to make a prima facie showing of breach of the settlement agreement. View "Doe v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law
Li v. Jin
Yaning was president of the Alumni Association; Jin was the executive vice president, and Fuzu was the vice president. To incorporate the Association as a nonprofit, Jin filed documents, listing himself as Secretary and CFO, and Yaning as CEO. This information was hidden from Fuzu. Association members elected a new board of directors. Fuzu was elected as secretary. Fuzu did not attend the meeting and was not informed of his election. Jin filed the Association’s IRS application for tax-exempt status, listing Fuzu as a director. No notice was given to Fuzu. Months later, Fuzu learned that he had been listed on the IRS application and was upset that his personal information had been used without his consent and that he had not been told he was on the board. Fuzu posted a message in the Association Wechat group telling alumni about Jin's actions.Jin sued Fuzu, alleging defamation and false light. Fuzu filed a cross-complaint, alleging breach of charitable trust, constructive fraud, fraud, and intentional deceit, civil conspiracy, commercial misappropriation of likeness, common law misappropriation of likeness, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Each party filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16. The court of appeal reversed the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion with respect to Jin’s submission to the IRS application; that application is a protected activity. The trial court must whether Fuzu can demonstrate that his claims relating to the submission have minimal merit. View "Li v. Jin" on Justia Law
Golden Gate Land Holdings LLC v. Direct Action Everywhere
Golden Gate, which operates a Berkeley horse racing track, sued Action, an animal rights organization, and individuals who allegedly climbed over a fence surrounding the race track, lit incendiary devices that produced smoke, then lay down on the track with their arms connected using PVC to make removing them difficult. The trespassers prevented scheduled races. The complaint alleged trespass and intentional interference with prospective economic relations. The complaint alleged that “each of the defendants" was "the agent, co-conspirator, aider and abettor, employee, representative, co-venturer, and/or alter ego of each and every other defendant,” but did not specify the circumstances upon which Action’s alleged vicarious liability was based. Action responded by filing an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) motion, claiming it “had no involvement in the civil disobedience.”The trial court denied the anti-SLAPP motion, ruling that Action failed to show that the complaint challenged protected activity. The court of appeal affirmed. Claims alleging that an advocacy organization is vicariously liable for a third party’s illegal conduct may be subject to a demurrer or other summary challenge, but they cannot be stricken under the anti-SLAPP statute unless the organization’s alleged liability is premised on constitutionally protected activity. The only fair reading of the complaint is that the wrong on which the claims against Action are based was the organization’s alleged involvement in the illegal trespass, not its speech or petitioning activity. View "Golden Gate Land Holdings LLC v. Direct Action Everywhere" on Justia Law
Cox Communications, Inc. v. T-Mobile US, Inc.
In Section 9(e) of a settlement agreement between Cox Communications and Sprint Corporation (T-Mobile U.S., Inc.'s predecessor-in-interest, Cox agreed that, before it offered wireless mobile services to its customers, it would enter into a “definitive” exclusive provider agreement with Sprint “on terms to be mutually agreed upon between the parties for an initial period of 36 months[.]” Cox and Sprint never entered into such a partnership. After T-Mobile finalized a purchase of Sprint in April 2020, the combined entity bid for Cox’s business, but Cox decided to partner with Verizon. After hearing that it would not be Cox’s exclusive partner, T-Mobile accused Cox of breaching the Settlement Agreement. Cox sued T-Mobile in Delaware's Court of Chancery, seeking a declaration that Section 9(e) was either an unenforceable “agreement to agree” or a Type II preliminary agreement requiring Cox and T-Mobile to negotiate in good faith. According to Cox, it was free to partner with Verizon because these good-faith negotiations failed. Shortly before trial, Cox also suggested that whatever Section 9(e) means, T-Mobile could not enforce it because the Settlement Agreement was between Cox and Sprint, and Cox never consented to an assignment. T-Mobile filed a compulsory counterclaim for breach of contract. In support of this claim, T-Mobile offered that Section 9(e) meant that, although Cox was not obligated to provide wireless mobile services, if it wished to do so, it had to first enter into an exclusive provider agreement with T-Mobile as the conceded successor-in-interest to Sprint. For T-Mobile, the failure of the parties’ attempt to negotiate the definitive terms of the agreement meant that Cox could not enter the wireless mobile market at all. The Court of Chancery agreed with T-Mobile and permanently enjoined Cox from “partnering with any mobile network operator other than T-Mobile to provide Wireless Mobile Service before entering into an agreement with T-Mobile. The Delaware Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Chancery, finding the Settlement Agreement was a Type II preliminary agreement that obligates the parties to negotiate open items in good faith. The judgment was reversed, the injunction vacated, and the matter remanded so that the Court of Chancery could determine whether Cox and T-Mobile discharged their obligations to negotiate in good faith. View "Cox Communications, Inc. v. T-Mobile US, Inc." on Justia Law
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. Schiff
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons maintains a website and publishes the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, both of which host information concerning “important medical, economic, and legal issues about vaccines,” The Association, joined by an individual, sued a Member of Congress (Schiff) who wrote to several technology and social media companies before and during the COVID-19 pandemic expressing concern about vaccine-related misinformation on their platforms and inquiring about the companies’ policies for handling such misinformation. The Association alleged that the inquiries prompted the technology companies to disfavor and deprioritize its vaccine content, thereby reducing traffic to its web page and making the information more difficult to access.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint for lack of Article III standing. The Association has not plausibly alleged injury-in-fact; it maintains that Schiff’s actions interfered with its “free negotiations” with the technology companies but never alleged that it has made any attempts at such negotiations, nor that it has concrete plans to do so in the future. The Association’s other claimed injuries, to its financial prospects and to its speech and associational interests, are not adequately supported by allegations that any injury is “fairly traceable” to Schiff’s actions. View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. Schiff" on Justia Law
Hood v. American Auto Care, et al.
Alexander Hood, a Colorado resident, appealed the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of his putative class-action claim against American Auto Care (AAC) in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. AAC, a Florida limited liability company whose sole office was in Florida, sold vehicle service contracts that provided vehicle owners with extended warranties after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Hood’s complaint alleged AAC violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and invaded Hood’s and the putative class members’ privacy by directing unwanted automated calls to their cell phones without consent. Although he was then residing in Colorado, the calls came from numbers with a Vermont area code. He had previously lived in Vermont, and his cell phone number had a Vermont area code. Hood was able to trace one such call to AAC. Although it determined that Hood had alleged sufficient facts to establish that AAC purposefully directs telemarketing at Colorado, the trial court held that the call to Hood’s Vermont phone number did not arise out of, or relate to, AAC’s calls to Colorado phone numbers. In light of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021), the Tenth Circuit determined the trial court's dismissal could not stand. "The argument regarding 'purposeful direction' ... is implicitly rejected by Ford, and the argument regarding 'arise out of or relate to' ... is explicitly rejected. ... We also determine that AAC has not shown a violation of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." View "Hood v. American Auto Care, et al." on Justia Law
Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission
The Second Circuit denied a petition for review challenging an FCC order removing the Solicited Fax Rule from the Code of Federal Regulations. The order was issued in response to the D.C. Circuit's decision holding that the Solicited Fax Rule was unlawful, and vacating a 2014 order of the FCC that affirmed the validity of the Rule. The court concluded that it is bound by the D.C. Circuit's decision and that the agency did not err by repealing the Rule following the D.C. Circuit's ruling. Pursuant to the Hobbs Act's channeling mechanism, the court explained that the D.C. Circuit became the sole forum for addressing the validity of the Rule. Therefore, once the D.C. Circuit invalidated the 2014 Order and the Rule, that holding became binding in effect on every circuit in which the regulation's validity is challenged. Accordingly, the FCC was bound to comply with the D.C. Circuit's mandate and could not pursue a policy of nonacquiescence. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law
Dae v. Traver
Robert filed a petition, alleging that Dae violated a “no contest” clause in a family trust by filing a previous petition challenging Robert’s actions as trustee. Dae’s subsequently moved to strike Robert’s petition under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute (Code Civ. Proc. 425.16.)The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. Robert’s No Contest Petition arose from protected petitioning activity under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16(e)(1); to defeat Dae’s motion, Robert was required to show a probability that he would prevail on that Petition. Robert made such a showing. Dae’s petition broadly challenged Robert’s conduct in setting up a financial structure that Robert claimed was designed to avoid estate taxes. If Robert’s claim is true, Dae’s petition would implicate the no-contest provision by seeking to “impair” trust provisions giving Robert the authority to manage trust assets. Dae also challenged his own removal as a beneficiary. Whether that more specific challenge amounts to a “contest” for purposes of the no-contest clause depends upon the trustors’ intent. Robert provided sufficient evidence of the trustors’ intent to allow a change of beneficiary to make a prima facie showing of probability of prevailing on Robert’s contention that Dae’s claims are a “contest.” The court expressed no opinion on the outcome of Robert’s petition. View "Dae v. Traver" on Justia Law
Chandler v. Berlin
Eringer is a writer of espionage-themed books and an "intelligence operative." Eringer, working for Prince Albert II of Monaco, hired Berlin to investigate the Chandler brothers, businessmen operating in Monaco. In 2003, Berlin delivered to Eringer a report that included allegations that the brothers were engaged in money laundering on behalf of high-level Russian officials and Russian organized crime. In the following years, Eringer made claims about the Chandlers in various fora, including a suit against the Prince in California, a 2014 self-published book, "The Spymaster of Monte Carlo," and an online article. Eringer did not reference Berlin or the 2003 Report. Chandler learned of Eringer’s accusations by 2010. Claims regarding the Chandlers became a source of public controversy in 2017, when a British newspaper published a story about their "links to Russia.” In 2018, Chandler sued Berlin for libel per se.The district court granted Berlin summary judgment. The D.C. Circuit reversed in part. The evidence does not establish as a matter of law that a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have sued Berlin more than a year earlier. Berlin and Eringer are not so closely connected that Chandler’s knowledge of Eringer’s pre-2017 defamatory statements caused accrual of Chandler’s action against Berlin. Reasonable jurors could differ as to whether facts available to Chandler before 2017 put him on inquiry notice of any claim against Berlin. Berlin cannot be held liable for the nonparty client’s republication of Berlin’s statements, which was not reasonably foreseeable. View "Chandler v. Berlin" on Justia Law