Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Rojas v. HSBC Card Services Inc.
This case was the second round of appeals arising from Dalia Rojas’s lawsuit against HSBC Card Services, Inc. and HSBC Technology & Services (USA) Inc. (together, HSBC) for violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act . Rojas received hundreds of personal calls from her daughter Alejandra, an employee at an HSBC call center, which were recorded by HSBC’s full-time recording system. Rojas alleged HSBC intentionally recorded confidential calls without her consent. She also alleged HSBC intentionally recorded calls to her cellular and cordless phones without her consent. The trial court granted summary judgment to HSBC, and Rojas appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding HSBC had not met its initial burden to show there was no triable issue of material fact on intent. On remand, HSBC made a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offer, which Rojas did not accept. The case proceeded to a bench trial, where HSBC relied, in part, on workplace policies that purportedly barred call center agents from making personal calls at their desks to show it did not intend to record the calls. The trial court ultimately entered judgment for HSBC. Pertinent here, the court found Rojas did not prove HSBC’s intent to record. The court also found Rojas impliedly consented to being recorded, and did not prove lack of consent. Rojas appealed that judgment, contending the trial court made several errors in determining she did not prove her Privacy Act claims and that the evidence did not support its findings. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court applied correct legal standards in assessing lack of consent and substantial evidence supports its finding that Rojas impliedly consented to being recorded. Although the Court determined the record did not support the court’s finding that HSBC did not intend to record the calls between Rojas and her daughter, that determination did not require reversal. "What it underscores, however, is that a business’s full-time recording of calls without adequate notice creates conditions ripe for potential liability under the Privacy Act, and workplace policies prohibiting personal calls may not mitigate that risk." View "Rojas v. HSBC Card Services Inc." on Justia Law
Venture Comm. Co-Op, Inc. v. James Valley Co-Op Telephone Co.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides subsidies to encourage telecommunication companies to expand high-speed broadband internet services in rural areas where customer revenues would otherwise be insufficient to justify the cost of doing business. Venture Communications Cooperative (“Venture”) provides broadband services to rural South Dakota customers. James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company and its wholly owned subsidiary, Northern Valley Communications (collectively, “Northern Valley”), is a competing provider. Venture filed this lawsuit against Northern Valley. The primary claim is that Northern Valley violated 47 U.S.C. Section 220(e) by filing a Form 477 that “intentionally, deliberately, fraudulently, and maliciously misrepresented” information “for the sole unlawful purpose of harming [Venture]” by depriving Venture of FCC subsidies in census blocks where Northern Valley was deemed to be an unsubsidized competitor. The district court granted Northern Valley summary judgment, concluding “there is no evidence that Northern Valley willfully overreported its broadband capabilities.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Venture’s claim of intent to injure is belied by Northern Valley helping Venture by filing a letter with the FCC clarifying that Northern Valley did not offer voice service in the Overlap Area. The court likewise affirmed the dismissal of Venture’s tortious interference and civil conspiracy claims under South Dakota law. The court agreed with the district court that Venture proffered no evidence of an “intentional and unjustified act of interference” because Northern Valley complied with all FCC reporting requirements. As Northern Valley complied with the Telecommunications Act in filing Form 477 at issue, there is no plausible underlying tort alleged. Summary judgment is warranted on this claim. View "Venture Comm. Co-Op, Inc. v. James Valley Co-Op Telephone Co." on Justia Law
KRISTEN HALL V. SMOSH DOT COM, INC., ET AL
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act alleging that Defendants sent text messages to a cell phone number that she had placed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry and provided to her thirteen-year-old son. The district court concluded that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing because she failed to allege that she was the “actual user” of the phone or the “actual recipient” of the text messages. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that the owner and subscriber of a phone with a number listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry has suffered an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing when unsolicited telemarketing calls or texts are sent to the number in alleged violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The panel held that the owner and subscriber of the phone suffers a concrete, de facto injury when their right to be free from such communications is violated, even if the communications are intended for or solicited by another individual and even if someone else is using the phone at the time the messages are transmitted. View "KRISTEN HALL V. SMOSH DOT COM, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Todd Kashdan v. George Mason University
Plaintiff, a tenured psychology professor at George Mason University (GMU), appealed the district court’s dismissal of his Title IX, procedural due process, and First Amendment claims against GMU and other defendants sued after he was disciplined for creating a hostile educational environment that amounted to sexual harassment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s erroneous-outcome claim. Such a claim requires a plaintiff to plausibly allege that (1) he was subjected to a procedurally flawed or otherwise flawed proceeding; (2) which led to an adverse and erroneous outcome; and (3) involved particular circumstances that suggest ‘gender bias was a motivating factor behind the erroneous finding. Here, Plaintiff does not connect these generalized pressures to his case in a way that creates a reasonable inference that anti-male bias-motivated GMU’s finding that he sexually harassed his students. Thus, as the district court explained, Plaintiff “has provided no basis from which to infer the existence of bias in his specific proceeding.” Further, Plaintiff’s “allegations of selective enforcement are not supported by any well-pled facts that exist independent of his legal conclusions.” Finally, the court explained that while Plaintiff’s research, publishing, and teaching about sex may qualify as matters of public concern, his contested speech veered well outside his teaching and scholarship into areas of private, personal interest. View "Todd Kashdan v. George Mason University" on Justia Law
Hastings College Conservation Committee v. Faigman
In January 2023, Assembly Bill 1936 changed the name of the former “Hastings College of the Law” to “College of the Law, San Francisco.” The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of AB 1936. The College’s Dean and Directors in their official capacities (College Defendants) filed a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute (Code Civ. Proc., 425.162), arguing that the complaint was replete with references to their public statements and resolutions regarding a new name and calling upon the Legislature to pass legislation adopting it. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the causes of action were based on the Legislature’s enactment of AB 1936, not on the speech or petitioning activity that preceded it.On appeal, the College Defendants argued that the anti-SLAPP statute applied because AB 1936 “authorizes and requires” them to engage in particular speech—the new name by which they “represent the College’s identity and values to the public”—and because the claims, if successful, would prevent or interfere with that speech. The court of appeal upheld the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. Even assuming that future speech in which the College Defendants use the new name is protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute, it is not the reason the plaintiffs have sued them. The plaintiffs’ claims are not based on the College Defendants’ speech. View "Hastings College Conservation Committee v. Faigman" on Justia Law
Consumers’ Research v. FCC
Congress enacted Sec. 254 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which established the Universal Service Fund (USF) and entrusted its administration to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC relies on a private entity, the Universal Service Administrative Company (“USAC”), to aid it in its administration of the USF. USAC proposals are approved by the FCC either expressly or after fourteen days of agency inaction.USAC submitted its 2022 first quarter projections to the FCC on November 2, 2021. The FCC published these projections for notice andcomment in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. On November 19, 2021, Petitioners submitted comments challenging the constitutionality of the USF and the FCC’s reliance on USAC. The FCC approved USAC’s proposal on December 27, 2021. In response, Petitioners filed this petition on January 5, 2022.On appeal, Petitioners assert that: (1) the Hobbs Act is not a jurisdictional bar to their constitutional claims; (2) Section 254 violates the nondelegation doctrine because Congress failed to supply the FCC with an intelligible principle; and (3) the FCC’s relationship with USAC violates the private nondelegation doctrine because the FCC does not adequately subordinate USAC in its administration of the USF.Finding that the Hobbs Act did not bar Petitioners' claims, the Fifth Circuit reached and rejected the claims on their merits. The Fifth Circuit held that Sec. 254 does not violate the non-delegation doctrine or the private non-delegation doctrine. View "Consumers' Research v. FCC" on Justia Law
Arthaud v. Fuglie
Jim Arthaud appeals a district court judgment granting Jim Fuglie’s motion to dismiss. Arthaud sued Fuglie, alleging Fuglie published a defamatory statement in his internet blog titled “A Bridge to Nowhere.” The blog was published in August 2018 on Fuglie’s website, “The Prairie Blog.” Arthaud brought suit on October 5, 2021, asserting he did not learn about the post until September 2021. Fuglie responded and filed a motion to dismiss, arguing Arthaud’s claim was time barred under the applicable statute of limitations. The district court subsequently granted the motion to dismiss, finding Arthaud’s claims were time barred under section 28-01-18(1) of the North Dakota Century Code regardless of whether the discovery rule applied in defamation cases. Arthaud argued the North Dakota Supreme Court should adopt the “discovery rule” when determining whether a litigant has timely brought a defamation claim. The Supreme Court held it was unnecessary to decide whether to adopt the discovery rule for defamation claims because the Uniform Single Publication Act precluded the discovery rule from applying to statements made to the public. View "Arthaud v. Fuglie" on Justia Law
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