Negligence & Intentional Tort

This summary also appears under Cyber Law

 

Issues: Whether the Communications Decency Act (CDA) barred the plaintiff's state-law tort claims; 47 USC § 230(c)(1); Doe v. SexSearch.com (ND OH); Whether the website was an "information content provider"; § 230(f)(3); Seaton v. TripAdvisor L.L.C.; Almeida v. Amazon.com, Inc. (11th Cir.); § 230(e)(3); Universal Commc'n Sys., Inc. v. Lycos, Inc. (1st Cir.); Batzel v. Smith (9th Cir.); "Immunity" interpretation; Zeran v. AOL (4th Cir.); Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc. (4th Cir.); Fair Hous. Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.Com (9th Cir.); Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc. (9th Cir.); Whether the website "developed" the information; Chicago Lawyers' Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist, Inc. (7th Cir.)

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit

Case Name: Jones v. Dirty World Entm't Recordings LLC

e-Journal Number: 57372

Judge(s): Gibbons, Guy, and Griffin

 

In a case of first impression, the court held that the plaintiff's state-law tort claims brought against the owners and operators of a "tabloid" website were barred by § 230(c)(1) of the CDA. The defendants owned and operated a website where anonymous users "upload comments, photographs, and video . . . targeting non-public figures[,]" in this instance, plaintiff. She sued in federal district court for state-law defamation, libel, false light, and intentional inflection of emotional distress. The court vacated the district court's judgment for the plaintiff, finding that the defendants were entitled to immunity under the CDA. The court considered when "a website is not an 'information content provider'" under § 230(f)(3), as to "information it publishes such that § 203(c)(1) bars state-law tort claims predicated on that information." The court adopted the "material contribution test to determine whether a website operator is 'responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of [allegedly tortious] information.'" Applying this "measure of 'development' to the facts of this case," the court held that because the defendants "were neither the creators nor the developers of the challenged defamatory content that was published on the website[,]" they could not be liable for the comments of third parties under § 230(c)(1). "Furthermore, § 230(e)(3) provides that '[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.'" The court expressly declined to adopt the district court's "encouragement test." It concluded that the defendants could not "be found to have materially contributed to the defamatory content of the statements . . . simply because those posts were selected for publication." They also could not "be found to have materially contributed to the defamatory content through the decision not to remove the posts." While "ludicrous, [the individual defendant's] remarks did not materially contribute to the defamatory content of the posts appearing on the website. More importantly, the CDA bars claims lodged against website operators for their editorial functions . . . so long as those comments are not themselves actionable." The plaintiff sought to treat defendants "as the publishers or speakers of those statements," and the CDA barred her claims. The court vacated the judgment for plaintiff and reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law with instructions to enter judgment as a matter of law in their favor.

 

Full Text Opinion

This summary also appears under Contracts

 

Issues: Contractual interpretation; St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Ingall; Burkhardt v. Bailey; Klapp v. United Ins. Group Agency, Inc.; The rule of contra proferentem; Holland v. Trinity Health Care Corp.; Negligence arising from a contractual relationship; Fultz v. Union-Commerce Assocs.; Clark v. Dalman; Rinaldo's Constr. Corp. v. Michigan Bell Tel. Co.; Boylan v. Fifty Eight LLC; Hart v. Ludwig; Negligence; Case v. Consumers Power Co.; "Causation"; Skinner v. Square D Co.; Craig v. Oakwood Hosp.; "Vicarious liability"; Theophelis v. Lansing Gen. Hosp.; Al-Shimmari v. Detroit Med. Ctr.; Cox v. Flint Bd. of Hosp. Managers.; Liability for negligence of an independent contractor; DeShambo v. Nielsen; Campbell v. Kovich; Candelaria v. B C Gen. Contractors, Inc.; Utley v. Taylor & Gaskin, Inc.; "Hearsay" (MRE 801(c)); People v Gursky; "Records of regularly conducted activity" exception; MRE 803(6); People v. Jambor; Solomon v. Shuell; MRE 703; People v. Pickens; Whether plaintiff's substantial right was affected by the admission of an expert report; MRE 103(a); Ellsworth v. Hotel Corp. of Am.; Abandonment of an issue on appeal; Coates v. Bastian Bros., Inc.; Case evaluation sanctions; MCR 2.403(O); Campbell v. Sullins; Allard v. State Farm Ins. Co.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: Westridge Office Ctr., LLC v. James E. Logan & Assocs., Ltd.

e-Journal Number: 57312

Judge(s): Per Curiam - Gleicher, Borrello, and Servitto

 

The court held that the trial court properly ruled in favor of the defendant-tenant on the plaintiff-landlord's claim that it breached their lease agreement, and that it properly awarded case evaluation sanctions to the defendant-contractor. Plaintiff alleged the tenant breached its lease agreement by terminating the lease without giving plaintiff the contractually agreed upon amount of time to repair the damaged office space. It also sued the contractor for breach of contract and negligence for causing the damage. The tenant countersued for declaratory relief, breach of contract, and negligence. The trial court ruled that the lease was ambiguous and should be construed against plaintiff as the drafter. A jury later found that the contractor was not negligent and the trial court awarded case evaluation sanctions. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that, because the lease was drafted by both parties, any ambiguity should have been resolved by the jury. It found that, based upon the testimony, there was "no question of material fact" that plaintiff "was, in fact, the drafter of the lease at issue and the trial court did not err in so finding. The trial court also did not err in applying the rule of contra proferentem." It next rejected plaintiff's argument that the tenant's negligence claim failed because the tenant alleged no duty independent from the lease agreement. It held that the tenant sufficiently alleged that plaintiff owed the tenant "a duty separate and distinct from the contract to allow its negligence claim to proceed to the jury." The court also rejected plaintiff's claim that it was entitled to a directed verdict in its favor, JNOV, or a new trial on the tenant's negligence claim because the evidence at trial established that the tenant's damages, if any, were caused by the collapse of the shoring wall built by the contractor and there was no evidence of any independent negligent conduct of plaintiff. It found that the tenant did not simply contend that plaintiff should be held liable based on the theory of vicarious liability. "Thus, the jury's conclusion that [the contractor] was not negligent does not require a finding that [plaintiff] was also not negligent and [its] claim that the jury's verdicts are irreconcilably inconsistent fails . . . ." The court agreed with plaintiff that the trial court erred in admitting an expert witness report under MRE 803(6) or MRE 703, but found that plaintiff was not prejudiced by it. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that the case evaluation sanctions award for the tenant must be vacated, finding that plaintiff failed to show that the "case evaluation was awarded strictly on [the] breach of contract claim." The award was not provided to the court and it was not "alleged that the evaluators distinctly awarded damages on one claim as opposed to the other or both." It also found that plaintiff was liable for case evaluation sanctions to the contractor. Affirmed.

 

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