Sams v. Yahoo! Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 04-15-2013
  • Case #: 11-16938
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M.D. Smith, Jr. for the Court; Circuit Judges Nelson and Reinhardt.
  • Full Text Opinion

The good faith reliance defense available under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2703(e), is satisfied when "the defendant complies with a subpoena that appears valid on its face, in the absence of any indication of irregularity sufficient to put the defendant on notice that the subpoena may be invalid or contrary to applicable law."

Fayelynn Sams ("Sams") filed suit against Yahoo! Inc. ("Yahoo") alleging Yahoo violated the Stored Communications Act ("SCA"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712, by "disclosing some of Sams' noncontent subscriber information to the government pursuant to allegedly invalid subpoenas." Under the SCA, a service provider, like Yahoo, is immune from suit when they disclose "basic subscriber information to the government 'in accordance with the terms of a...subpoena'...or in 'good faith reliance on...a grand jury subpoena.'" The district court granted Yahoo's motion to dismiss the complaint on grounds of statutory immunity granted under 18 U.S.C § 2703(e). On appeal, Sams argues that Yahoo should not be entitled to immunity because the subpoenas relied upon were invalid. Looking to the "good faith reliance" provision, the Ninth Circuit found that the good faith reliance defense "is met when the defendant complies with a subpoena that appears valid on its face, in the absence of any indication of irregularity sufficient to put the defendant on notice that the subpoena may be invalid or contrary to applicable law." Further, the immunity defense is not available if the "defendant actually knew that the subpoena was invalid under applicable law." Sams complaint failed to establish a "plausible inference" that Yahoo knew the subpoenas were invalid and Yahoo's production "was objectively reasonable as a matter of law." AFFIRMED.

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