Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of an eleven year old boy in an action alleging that Credit One violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making 189 automated calls to his cell phone. In this case, Credit One was trying to collect past-due payments from a customer, but, unbeknownst to the bank, the customer's cell phone number had been reassigned to Sandra Lemos, who in turn had let her son, N.L., use the phone as his own. The panel joined every circuit to have addressed this issue and held that the consent of the person it intended to call did not exempt Credit One from liability under the TCPA. Therefore, Credit One cannot escape liability under the TCPA and upheld the district court's determination that Credit One was liable for the calls made to N.L. The panel also held that, in light of Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC, 904 F.3d 1041 (9th Cir. 2018), the district court properly instructed the jury on the definition of an "automatic telephone dialing system." Because the jury instruction on this definition is consistent with Marks, the panel held that Credit One's challenge to it failed. View "N. L. v. Credit One Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing its prior opinion and replacing the opinion with an amended opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel also filed an amended opinion reserving the district court's dismissal, as barred by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA), of claims under New York law and the Lanham Act's false advertising provision. Enigma filed suit alleging that Malwarebytes Inc. has configured its software to block users from accessing Enigma's software in order to divert Enigma's customers. The panel distinguished Zango Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc., 568 F.3d 1169, 1173 (9th Cir. 2009), from this case and held that the parties here were competitors. The panel heeded the warning in Zango against an overly expansive interpretation of section 230 that could lead to anticompetitive results. The panel held that the phrase "otherwise objectionable" does not include software that the provider finds objectionable for anticompetitive reasons. In regard to the state-law claims, the panel held that Enigma's allegations of anticompetitive animus were sufficient to withstand dismissal. In regard to the federal claim, the panel held that section 230's exception for intellectual property claims did not apply because Enigma's false advertising claim did not relate to trademarks or any other type of intellectual property. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Enigma Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiff alleged that Facebook used automated telephone dialing systems (ATDS) to alert users, as a security precaution, when their account was accessed from an unrecognized device or browser. However, plaintiff was not a Facebook customer and his repeated attempts to terminate the alerts were unsuccessful. The panel held that plaintiff's allegations under the Act were sufficient to withstand Facebook's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In this case, the messages plaintiff received were automated, unsolicited, and unwanted. As to the constitutional issue, the panel joined the Fourth Circuit and held that a 2015 amendment to the Act, excepting calls "made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States," was content-based and incompatible with the First Amendment. The panel severed the newly appended "debt-collection exception" as an unconstitutional restriction on speech. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Duguid v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under 47 U.S.C. 555a(a), local authorities and municipalities, involved in the regulation of cable television services within their boundaries, are exempted from civil money damages liability in any lawsuit for any claim arising from the regulation of cable services. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grants of summary judgment for Comcast. In this case, Comcast sought money damages against a municipality, and thus the suit arose out of the regulation of cable services pursuant to section 555a(a), which barred the only relief Comcast sought. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss Comcast's lawsuit. View "Comcast of Sacramento I, LLC v. Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for USA Funds, holding that the district court incorrectly determined that a reasonable jury could not hold USA Funds vicariously liable for the debt collectors' alleged Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations. The panel held that USA Funds was not per se vicariously liable under FCC orders. However, the panel held that, under federal common law, there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether USA Funds ratified the debt collectors' calling practices and thus had a principal-agent relationship with the debt collectors. View "Henderson v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to Crunch Fitness on plaintiff's claim that three text messages he received from Crunch violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The panel held, in light of the DC Circuit's recent opinion in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018), and based on the panel's own review of the TCPA, that the statutory definition of automatic text messaging system includes a device that stores telephone numbers (ATDS) to be called, whether or not those numbers have been generated by a random or sequential number generator. Because the district court did not have the benefit of ACA International or the panel's construction of the definition of ATDS, the panel vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who are homeless or have recently been homeless, filed suit against the City seeking retrospective relief for their previous citations under the Camping Ordinance and Disorderly Conduct Ordinance. The panel held that an ordinance violates the Eighth Amendment insofar as it imposes criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter is available to them. The panel also held that two of the plaintiffs may be entitled to retrospective and prospective relief for violation of that Eighth Amendment right. These two plaintiffs have demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether they face a credible risk of prosecution under the ordinances in the future on a night when they have been denied access to Boise's homeless shelters. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Martin v. City of Boise" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant in an action alleging that defendant violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, by calling her repeatedly through an automatic telephone dialing system. The panel held that plaintiff, by completing and submitting a health insurance enrollment form, gave prior express consent to receive quality assurance calls. View "Fober v. Management and Technology Consultants, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant in an action alleging that defendant violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, by calling her repeatedly through an automatic telephone dialing system. The panel held that plaintiff, by completing and submitting a health insurance enrollment form, gave prior express consent to receive quality assurance calls. View "Fober v. Management and Technology Consultants, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law
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The en banc court affirmed the district court's denial of AT&T Mobility's motion to dismiss an action brought by the FTC alleging that AT&T's data-throttling plan was unfair and deceptive. After determining that the district court had federal question jurisdiction, the en banc court held that the Federal Trade Commission Act's, 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1), (2), common-carrier exemption was activity-based, and therefore the phrase "common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce" provided immunity from FTC regulation only to the extent that a common carrier was engaging in common carrier services. The en banc court also held that the FCC's order reclassifying mobile data service did not rob the FTC of its jurisdiction or authority over conduct occurring before the order. View "FTC V. AT&T Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law