Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint alleging three defamation counts against defendants. The defamatory statements at issue stemmed from the parties' failed business relationship in the sport of darts. The court held that the pleaded actual damages are sufficient to satisfy the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. In this case, the complaint does not limit its request for damages to a precise monetary amount, but pleaded in excess of $60,000. On the merits, the court held, under Missouri law, that defendants' three statements are capable of defamatory meaning and the opinion privilege does not render these statements nonactionable at this stage. In light of the totality of the circumstances and context in which these statements were made, the court held that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that these statements at a minimum imply an assertion of objective fact. Therefore, the district court erred in concluding that the complaint failed to state a claim for defamation and in dismissing the action. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Turntine v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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Nelson Auto filed suit against KARE 11, alleging that the news provider published false and defamatory statements regarding a criminal complaint filed by the State of Minnesota in Otter Tail County District Court charging Gerald Worner, Nelson Auto's former Fleet Manager, with five counts of theft by swindle. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of KARE 11's motion to dismiss, holding that the district court did not err by concluding that Nelson Auto is a public figure as a matter of Minnesota law. The court agreed with the district court that, given the absence of facts from which actual malice might reasonably be inferred, the allegations show nothing more than oversight on KARE 11's part, which does not constitute actual malice. View "Nelson Auto Center, Inc. v. Multimedia Holdings Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against numerous parties, alleging violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Eighth Circuit revisited its prior holding in this case because of an intervening decision from the Supreme Court. The court held that, even under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1549 (2016), plaintiffs suffered a concrete injury when they received the two answering machine messages and thus have Article III standing. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give the jury plaintiffs' preferred instruction on direct liability regarding Defendant Leininger, who hired Defendant ccAdvertising, which made the calls in violation of the TCPA. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in reducing the award of statutory damages against ccAdvertising, because the larger award would violated the Due Process Clause. View "Golan v. FreeEats.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial, on remand, of Qwest's unjust enrichment claim against FC. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that it would not be inequitable for FC to retain the benefit conferred by Qwest. In this case, the district court explained that FC earned the benefit conferred by Qwest because it provided conference-calling services, 24-hour customer support, and access to a website in exchange for two cents per minute for calls placed to FC's conferencing bridges at Sancom. Furthermore, Qwest paid its own conference-calling vendor between two and four-and-a-half cents per minute. View "Qwest Communications Corp. v. Free Conferencing Corp." on Justia Law

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FC appealed the district court's judgment in favor of Qwest, finding FC was liable for tortious interference with Qwest's contractual relationship with Tekstar. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in finding that FC caused Tekstar to breach its tariff with Qwest; the breach was material; FC's justification defense was rejected where the district court did not clearly err in finding that, prior to contracting with Tekstar, FC was on notice that it was not an end user and that Tekstar would violate its tariff by charging Qwest tariff rates for FC’s traffic; the district court's conclusion was not precluded by collateral estoppel; the district court did not clearly err in finding that the nearly $1 million Qwest paid to AT&T and other long-distance carriers to route FC's traffic flowed directly from FC's tortious interference; and there was no error in the district court's award of attorney's fees to Qwest. View "Qwest Communications Co. v. Free Conferencing Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Charter, holding that Charter Spectrum Voice VoIP service was an "information service" under the Telecommunications Act and Minnesota state regulation of plaintiff's VoIp service was preempted. The court explained that Spectrum Voice's service was an information service because it makes available information via telecommunications by providing the capability to transform that information through net protocol conversion. View "Charter Advanced Services v. Lange" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the FCC's 2017 order altering regulations for business data services (BDS). ILEC Petitioners challenged new price cap rates in the order and CLEC Petitioners challenged most of the other changes in the order. The Eighth Circuit granted CLEC's petitions in part and vacated in part. The court denied the petitions for review on all other issues. The court held that the FCC's 2016 notice gave CLEC adequate notice of large scale deregulation and of the adopted Competitive Market Test, but the notice failed to give sufficient notice of its ending of ex ante regulation of transport services. This failure prevented interested parties from informed participation in that portion of the rulemaking and release of a draft of the proposed order did not remedy the FCC's violation of its obligations under the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the court vacated that portion of the final rule affecting time division multiplex transport services and remanded for further proceedings. The court rejected challenges to the FCC's adoption of the Competitive Market Test. The court also held that the FCC did not act unreasonably in excluding low bandwidth Ethernet business data services from price caps; in declining to extend the Interim Wholesale Access Rule to business data services; and in setting the "X-factor" annual price cap reduction at 2%. View "Citizens Telecommunications Company of Minnesota v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, several wire-line telecommunications carriers, challenged the City's ordinance that charged plaintiffs for their use of public rights-of-way. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that the federal Telecommunications Act did not preempt the City's ordinance. The court remanded as to the issue of whether construction costs were management costs that the City could properly charge plaintiffs. In this case, the record was replete with dense reports and conflicting expert opinions and much turned on which experts to believe. Therefore, such decisions must be made in the first instance by the trier of fact. View "Qwest Corp. v. City of Des Moines, Iowa" on Justia Law

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Under Missouri campaign finance law, chapter 130, a “campaign committee” is formed to receive contributions or make expenditures solely to support or oppose particular ballot measures, "such committee shall be formed no later than thirty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures." Thirteen days before the November 2014 general election, a group formed MFA as a campaign committee, to accept contributions and make expenditures in support of Proposition 10. MFA sued to enjoin enforcement of the formation deadline, citing the First Amendment. The district court granted MFA a temporary restraining order. MFA received contributions and made expenditures before the election. After the election, MFA terminated as a campaign committee. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of MFA. While a formation deadline by itself might not expressly limit speech, the deadline here is more than a disclosure requirement because it prohibits (or significantly burdens) formation of a campaign committee, a requisite for legally engaging in speech, even if the individual or group is willing to comply with organizational and disclosure requirements. Even if the state’s interest in preventing circumvention of chapter 130’s disclosure regime is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored, given its burden on speech and its modest effect on preventing circumvention of the disclosure regime. View "Missourians for Fiscal Accountability v. Klahr" on Justia Law

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Under Missouri campaign finance law, chapter 130, a “campaign committee” is formed to receive contributions or make expenditures solely to support or oppose particular ballot measures, "such committee shall be formed no later than thirty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures." Thirteen days before the November 2014 general election, a group formed MFA as a campaign committee, to accept contributions and make expenditures in support of Proposition 10. MFA sued to enjoin enforcement of the formation deadline, citing the First Amendment. The district court granted MFA a temporary restraining order. MFA received contributions and made expenditures before the election. After the election, MFA terminated as a campaign committee. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of MFA. While a formation deadline by itself might not expressly limit speech, the deadline here is more than a disclosure requirement because it prohibits (or significantly burdens) formation of a campaign committee, a requisite for legally engaging in speech, even if the individual or group is willing to comply with organizational and disclosure requirements. Even if the state’s interest in preventing circumvention of chapter 130’s disclosure regime is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored, given its burden on speech and its modest effect on preventing circumvention of the disclosure regime. View "Missourians for Fiscal Accountability v. Klahr" on Justia Law