Topic: Litigation

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Parties May Provide Notice to Class Members Through Social Media

With the prevalence of employment and labor class action lawsuits, particularly those based on alleged wage and hour violations, the nuances of defending those suits and administering potential settlements are paramount to California employers. One lesser-discussed feature of the class action process is the notice requirement to class members. Throughout the lifespan of the action, potential and actual class members must receive notice at a number of pivotal stages. These stages include, of course, those events closer to the end of the action such as proposed settlements and settlement distributions, but the notice issue can also arise relatively early in … Continue Reading

Social media and corporate executive responsibility

Corporations that sell to consumers and are subject to consumer lawsuits commonly receive deposition demands for top executives. Corporations can frequently defeat these demands by showing that the executives did not participate or have control over the matter at issue. But a recent ruling from a federal trial court in California demonstrated how controlling social media content can help change that result, leaving a CEO as a defendant in a consumer class action alleging fraud and false advertising. (Kamal v. Eden Creamery, LLC, No. 18-cv-01298-BAS-AGS (S.D. Cal. June 26, 2019).)… Continue Reading

Grumpy Cat back in court

We previously reported on Grumpy Cat Limited’s big win in a copyright and trademark suit. As a recap, Grumpy Cat—the social-media-famous grimacing feline, or rather the holding company owned by her “parents”—filed a lawsuit after the defendants went beyond the scope of a licensing agreement to market a variety of Grumpy Cat-themed coffee products. According to the suit, the contract was only intended to cover bottled iced-coffee beverages called Grumpuccinos.

Though judgment was entered, the tale is not over yet. Grumpy Cat Limited recently asked the court to award it over $320,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees from the defendants, … Continue Reading

Grumpy Cat Almost Smiling Over Big Award

 

Grumpy Cat has a new reason to turn that frown upside-down. Though the cat is known for her sneer, she is (or rather, Grumpy Cat Limited and its/her owners are) sitting pretty on a recent jury award in California of over $700,000 for trademark and copyright infringement and breach of contract. (Grumpy Cat Ltd. v. Grenade Beverage LLC, Civ. No. 8:15-cv-02063 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 24, 2018) (jury verdict)).… Continue Reading

The long arm of the law

Businesses today operate in a global, borderless environment, in which social media platforms allow them to market and distribute their goods and services around the world with ease. As a result, it has become more difficult to protect and enforce a company’s intellectual property rights online. For example, an alleged infringer could circumvent a country-specific restriction to access certain material by simply changing his or her ‘virtual’ location. This is posing an interesting question for the courts, and has led to a recent Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in which the SCC ordered a worldwide injunction against … Continue Reading

Snap out of it: the resurrection of “self-destructing” social media evidence

In December of 2017, a UK inmate was freed after years in prison when deleted social media messages disproved the allegations against him.

Danny Kay was accused of rape in 2013. A key piece of evidence was a social media conversation between Kay and his accuser, in which he appeared to be apologizing for nonconsensual sex. Kay maintained that the conversation shown to the jury was incomplete, but he believed the full conversation had been deleted and could not be retrieved. Fortunately for him, a fellow inmate convinced Kay that the conversation could be recovered. Kay’s sister-in-law logged in to … Continue Reading

How anonymous can you be on social media?

In November of 2017, a federal appeals court rejected employment-related site Glassdoor’s claim that its users had a First Amendment right to anonymity that would protect their information from disclosure pursuant to a grand jury subpoena. The panel also sustained a contempt order that was entered by the district court to enforce the decision.  (In re Grand Jury Subpoena, No. 16-03-217, Civ. No. 17-16221, D.C.No. 2:17-mc-00036-DJH (9th Cir. Nov. 8, 2017)).  (We had previously covered an unrelated case involving anonymity of reviews on Glassdoor.com posted by former employees here.)… Continue Reading

Social Media Evidence and Pay-Per-View TV

We have previously written about social media posts and advertisements being used as evidence in a variety of legal cases (most recently, a post relating to emojis).  A federal court in Pennsylvania recently used two social media advertisements—from a source the court could not identify—as evidence to support a finding of “willfulness” and to award 33% in enhanced damages.  (J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Ramsey, Civ. No. 17-1942 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 27, 2017) (2017 WL 4287200).)… Continue Reading

Legal Implications of Emoji Use

Emoticons – the often whimsical hieroglyphics that most so affectionately know as “emojis” – have become ubiquitous in modern digital communication not only by individuals but also by corporations as part of their advertising and marketing campaigns on social media. Emojis have also begun appearing as evidence in court cases.

A short, but fascinating, discussion between several experts in the fields of computer science, hieroglyphics, and social media of the impact emojis have had on our language can be found here. The crux of the discussion is that emojis can have a profound impact on the way we communicate. … Continue Reading

Use of Twitter to Broadcast Courtroom Proceedings

In 2017, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications (the “Commission”) issued an advisory opinion that the conveyance of information via microblogging platforms, such as Twitter, does not constitute prohibited “broadcasting” under Rule 2.17 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Under Rule 2.17, judges are required to prohibit the broadcasting of courtroom proceedings to the public except under a narrow set of circumstances. Although this issue may seem geographically limited at first glance, courts and commissions around the country are considering this issue as microblogging activity becomes more prevalent.… Continue Reading

Expert Witnesses May (Still) Be Used in U.S. Litigation to Explain Basic Social Media Use

On March 8, 2017, federal Judge Sidney Fitzwater, of the North District of Texas, issued a memorandum opinion and order in Charalambopoulos v. Grammer, No. 3:14-CV-2424-D, 2017 WL 930819. The case had already been in litigation for years and involved allegations of domestic violence and defamation.  According to earlier opinions issued in Charalambopoulos, the parties had been staying in Houston, Texas where the defendant – a reality television star and former wife of Kelsey Grammer – was undergoing cancer treatment.  The parties, who were dating at the time, got into an argument at their hotel during the trip.  … Continue Reading

Facebook’s California Choice-of-Law Provision Rules the Day

On January 9, 2017, the Northern District of California granted Facebook’s motion to dismiss for claims brought under New Jersey’s Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“the TCCWNA”). In Palomino v. Facebook, Inc., a putative class of New Jersey residents challenged Facebook’s Terms of Service, which, among other provisions, require users to waive potential claims for misconduct such as deceptive and fraudulent practices. Plaintiffs argued that this violated two provisions of the TCCWNA that prohibit such waivers.  The case was resolved before advancing to the merits.… Continue Reading

Risks of unlawful social media content: changes in UK defamation landscape and what you need to know

A carefully curated social media presence is a critical business requirement, but there are risks. One of these risks is unlawful content – be that unlawful content posted to your businesses’ own social media account (exposing the company to potential liability) or harmful content about your business (or its C-Suite or key personnel) posted on independent sites.

So how do you tackle unlawful content? Often the first point of call is the law of defamation. The UK is renowned as a claimant friendly jurisdiction for defamation litigation. With its widely respected court system and judiciary, the UK has been the … Continue Reading

Serving up lawsuits via Facebook: social media provides creative solution under Federal Rules

Service of process on a foreign defendant can be a major headache for U.S. plaintiffs, but social media is proving to be a creative solution when traditional methods have been demonstrated to fail.

We previously covered a New York federal court’s ruling that permitted the Federal Trade Commission to serve the Indian defendants, operating under the name PCcare, by email and Facebook. We also discussed a Kansas federal court’s ruling that denied service via Facebook as the sole means of service.

Since our last update, a federal trial court in Virginia has ruled in favor of allowing service by social … Continue Reading

Did Twitter violate Anti-Terrorism Act by providing ISIS accounts?

On August 10, 2016, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, in Fields v. Twitter, Inc., dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint against Twitter with leave to amend. The plaintiffs’ complaint arose out of the deaths of Lloyd Fields, Jr. and James Damon Creach, two United States government contractors who were working at a law enforcement training center in Amman, Jordan. Fields and Creach were murdered at the hands of Anwar Abu Zaid, a Jordanian police captain who was inspired to commit the act after watching the ISIS execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh via … Continue Reading

What’s In Your Terms of Service?

Social media platforms often require users to agree to Terms of Service or Terms of Use (“TOS”) to use the platform. These contracts can be lengthy and many social media users may not read them in their entirety before agreeing and proceeding to use the platform. This can raise particular issues in contract law, especially about the legal enforceability of the provisions.

The legal enforceability of TOS provisions is relevant to both social media users and app developers. Individuals or businesses who use social media should consider how the TOS affect their legal rights and obligations, especially regarding privacy and … Continue Reading

Discovery Challenges of Social Media

Social media has created several complications with regard to the U.S. discovery process in litigation. Among these complications are issues relating to (i) seeking out and turning over vast amounts of social media information, and (ii) preserving inherently fleeting social media information.… Continue Reading

Internet’s ‘Hide and Seek’ Battle Continues in Canada

The anonymity of the Internet has posed many challenges to the protection of intellectual property rights. The sheer size of the population of online users and the millions of file-sharing programs and other social media outlets that exist have left IP rights holders struggling to protect their property and goodwill in the digital era. For example, the battle between protecting copyright online while simultaneously protecting the privacy rights of online users has led to interesting debates in the courts as well as new IP strategies that are currently being explored.… Continue Reading

Hacked private messages used in court

A South African high court recently ruled that a civil litigant’s private Facebook messages, which were unlawfully obtained by the hacking of his personal account, were nevertheless admissible as evidence against him.

In Harvey v Niland, the litigants were members of the same corporation.  Niland was also an employee of the corporation.  After leaving his employment on bad terms, he remained a member of the corporation.  Harvey sought a court order to prevent Niland from soliciting the corporation’s existing customers for his new employer and damaging the corporation’s reputation, in breach of his fiduciary duties as a member of … Continue Reading

Social media – Lessons learned from 2015

Our Top Five stories from 2015 also provide some “lessons learned” or considerations for companies who are considering using social media in 2016:

  1. Know what data you are collecting and where it is being transferred. Like more than 4,000 companies, Facebook had been sending member data of European citizens to the United States pursuant to the EU/US Safe Harbor. In October 2015, the European Court of Justice struck down the EU/US Safe Harbor, leaving companies scrambling to find an alternative way to send personal data from the European Union to the United States. Although the successor to the EU/US Safe
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