Doe v. Internet Brands, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 09-17-2014
  • Case #: 12-56638
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroeder and District Judge Cogan
  • Full Text Opinion

The Communications Decency Act does not bar a failure to warn claim between a website provider and an individual who was harmed by a third party user of the website.

Jane Doe, an aspiring model, solicited the services of Model Mayhem (owned by Internet Brands, Inc.), “a networking website. . .for people in the modeling industry.” The website’s purpose is for aspiring models to post a profile of themselves for potential employers to contact them through, in order to set up an audition for potential modeling opportunities. Two rapists utilized this website to lure Doe to a fake audition. Upon her arrival, the two men “drugged her, raped her and, recorded her for a pornographic video.” Doe then sued Internet Brands, alleging that Internet Brands knew about the potential dangers of the rapists, but failed to warn her or the other users on the website. The district court dismissed her claim and stated that her cause of action was barred under the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). The CDA “precludes liability that treats a website as the publisher or speaker of information users provide on the website, and generally protects websites from liability for material posted on the website by someone else.” Under California law, an entity has the duty to warn a potential victim of “third party harm” if there is a special relationship between the entity and the potential victim. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit only reviewed whether “the dismissal of the actions by the district court was based entirely on the CDA.” Doe's claim did “not seek to hold Internet Brands liable as a ‘publisher or speaker’ of content.” Instead, her claim sought to “hold Internet Brands liable for failing to warn her about how third parties targeted and lured victims through Model Mayhem.” The panel therefore held that since the CDA does not bar a claim based on failure to warn, the CDA does not bar Doe from bringing this type of claim. REVERSED and REMANDED.



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