Lancaster v. Alphabet Inc. et al

Filing 57

ORDER by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. GRANTING DEFENDANTS' 17 MOTION TO DISMISS. (ndrS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/8/2016)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 DEANNE Q. LANCASTER, Case No. 15-cv-05299-HSG Plaintiff, 8 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS v. 9 10 ALPHABET INC., et al., Re: Dkt. No. 17 Defendants. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 Pending before the Court is Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint in its 13 14 15 entirety. Dkt. No. 17 (“Motion”). For the reasons articulated below, the Motion is GRANTED. I. BACKGROUND On September 25, 2015, pro se Plaintiff Deanne Lancaster filed the current action against 16 17 Defendants Alphabet Inc., Google Inc., and YouTube, LLC in Santa Clara Superior Court. Dkt. 18 No. 1-1 (“Compl.”). Defendants removed the action to this Court on November 19, 2015. Dkt. 19 No. 1. 20 While the complaint is difficult to parse, Plaintiff’s allegations appear to arise out of the 21 operation of YouTube’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) takedown process. See 22 Compl. ¶¶ 1-7. Plaintiff contends that YouTube runs a DMCA scheme in which it 23 “misrepresent[s] the true copyright holder of public domain videos uploaded by YouTube 24 partners” thereby permitting “false copyright claimants who create false websites and dishonestly 25 claim the rights to public domain videos to steal earnings from YouTube partners.” Id. ¶¶ 1, 32. 26 Plaintiff asserts that she is a YouTube “partner,” which enables her to share revenue from 27 advertisements that Google places on videos that she uploads to her YouTube channel. See id. ¶ 9. 28 According to Plaintiff, in furtherance of its DMCA scheme, YouTube has removed videos and 1 advertising from Plaintiff’s YouTube channel in response to false copyright claims and thus has 2 misdirected advertising revenue to which Plaintiff is entitled to such false copyright claimants. 3 See id. ¶¶ 86-97. Further, Plaintiff alleges, YouTube “has abused and harassed partners” that, like 4 Plaintiff, are not complicit in its DMCA scheme. See id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff contends that Defendants 5 have continuously harassed her by, for example, hacking, cyberstalking, and intercepting her 6 electronic communications, and that these actions have caused her physical and emotional 7 suffering. See e.g., ¶¶ 39, 41, 44, 48, 52. Plaintiff asserts ten causes of action: (1) a request for a declaration that she is entitled to 8 seek punitive damages in arbitration; (2) fraud; (3) aiding and abetting; (4) harassment; (5) 10 intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 dealing; (7) copyright infringement; (8) email tampering; (9) computer hacking; and (10) 12 negligence. 13 II. DISCUSSION 14 In their Motion, Defendants articulate four main reasons that Plaintiff’s complaint must be 15 dismissed: (1) Plaintiff’s claims are barred by § 512(g) of the DMCA; (2) Defendants are immune 16 from liability under § 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c) (“CDA”); (3) 17 Plaintiff’s claims are precluded by YouTube’s Terms of Service and Partner Program Terms; and 18 (4) each of Plaintiff’s claims fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Mot. at 2- 19 4. Additionally, Defendants contend that Alphabet, Inc. should be dismissed from this action 20 because it is not a proper defendant. Id. at 24-25. The Court holds that Plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed in its entirety because it is 21 22 barred in part by § 230 of the CDA and fails to state any claim. Accordingly, the Court need not 23 address Defendants’ arguments that Plaintiff’s claims are precluded by § 512(g) of the Digital 24 Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube’s Terms of Service, and YouTube’s Partner Program 25 Terms.1 26 27 28 1 On December 11, 2015, Defendants requested that the Court take judicial notice of YouTube’s Terms of Service and Partner Program Terms. Dkt. No. 19. Because the Court does not rely on those documents, Defendants’ request for judicial notice is DENIED AS MOOT. 2 1 A. Legal Standard 2 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain 3 statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” A defendant may move to 4 dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal 5 Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). “Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the 6 complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.” 7 Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). To survive a Rule 8 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on 9 its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when a plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 12 In reviewing the plausibility of a complaint, courts “accept factual allegations in the 13 complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” 14 Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Nonetheless, 15 Courts do not “accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of 16 fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 17 2008). And even where facts are accepted as true, “a plaintiff may plead [him]self out of court” if 18 he “plead[s] facts which establish that he cannot prevail on his . . . claim.” Weisbuch v. Cnty. of 19 Los Angeles, 119 F.3d 778, 783 n.1 (9th Cir. 1997) (quotation marks and citation omitted). 20 “Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e). For that reason, 21 while courts cannot “supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled,” Pena v. 22 Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992), as amended (Oct. 9, 1992), “a pro se complaint, 23 however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted 24 by lawyers,” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotations marks and citations 25 omitted). If dismissal is still appropriate, a court “should grant leave to amend even if no request 26 to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be 27 cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) 28 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Where leave to amend is appropriate, “before dismissing a 3 1 pro se complaint the district court must provide the litigant with notice of the deficiencies in his 2 complaint in order to ensure that the litigant uses the opportunity to amend effectively.” Ferdik v. 3 Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). 4 i. 5 The Communications Decency Act Bars Plaintiff’s Claims Premised Upon YouTube’s Removal of Videos The Court agrees with Defendants that § 230 of the CDA prohibits any claim arising from 6 Defendants’ removal of Plaintiff’s videos. See Mot. at 12-14. 7 Under § 230(c)(1) of the CDA, “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service 8 shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 content provider.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1). Thus, § 230(c)(1) bars a plaintiff’s claim if (1) the defendant is a “provider or user of an interactive computer service”; (2) the information for which the plaintiff seeks to hold the defendant liable is “information provided by another information content provider”; and (3) the plaintiff’s claim seeks to hold the defendant liable as “the publisher or speaker” of that information. See Sikhs for Justice “SFJ”, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., 144 F. Supp. 3d 1088, 1092-93 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (quoting 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)). An “interactive computer service” is defined as “any information service, system, or access software provider that provides 16 or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service 17 or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by 18 19 20 21 libraries or educational institutions.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2). To determine whether a claim seeks to treat a defendant as a “publisher or speaker,” “courts must ask whether the duty that the plaintiff alleges the defendant violated derives from the defendant’s status or conduct as a “publisher or speaker.” Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc., 570 F.3d 1096, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009), as amended (Sept. 28, 22 2009). 23 Under the three-prong test articulated in Sikhs for Justice, Plaintiff cannot assert a claim 24 25 26 27 based on Defendants’ removal of her videos. The Court finds, and Plaintiff appears to concede, that YouTube and Google are “interactive computer services.” See e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 9, 30 (alleging that Plaintiff uploads videos to Google’s video upload service, YouTube, in order to “share her video poems with a greater audience” and “entice new viewers to her poems”). Several other 28 4 1 district courts are in accord. See e.g., Gavra v. Google Inc., No. 5:12-CV-06547-PSG, 2013 U.S. 2 Dist. LEXIS 100127, at *4-*9 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2013); Jurin v. Google Inc., 695 F. Supp. 2d 3 1117, 1123 (E.D. Cal. 2010). Furthermore, Plaintiff acknowledges that the videos removed from 4 her YouTube channel were not created by Defendants, but were either Plaintiff’s poems or public 5 domain videos. See e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 2, 6, 9, 30. Finally, Defendants’ decision to “remov[e] 6 content is something publishers do, and to impose liability on the basis of such conduct 7 necessarily involves treating the liable party as a publisher.” Barnes, 570 F.3d at 1103; see also 8 Fair Hous. Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.Com, LLC, 521 F.3d 1157, 1171 (9th 9 Cir. 2008) (“any activity that can be boiled down to deciding whether to exclude material that 10 third parties seek to post online is perforce immune under section 230.”). United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Accordingly, the Court holds that § 230(c)(1) of the CDA precludes as a matter of law any 12 claims arising from Defendants’ removal of Plaintiff’s videos and GRANTS the motion to dismiss 13 to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to impose liability as a result of said removals. Any amendment 14 would be futile, and thus the Court dismisses such claims with prejudice. See Bonin v. Calderon, 15 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995) (“Futility of amendment can, by itself, justify the denial of a 16 motion for leave to amend.”). 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 ii. Plaintiff’s Claims Fail to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted The Court further agrees with Defendants that each of Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed because each fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Mot. at 17. a. Declaratory Relief (Claim One) Plaintiff’s first claim requests a declaration that YouTube’s Terms of Service are unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. Compl. ¶¶ 152-56. Under California law, “[a] finding of unconscionability requires a procedural and a 24 substantive element, the former focusing on oppression or surprise due to unequal bargaining 25 power, the latter on overly harsh or one-sided results.” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 26 U.S. 333, 340 (2011) (quoting Armendariz v. Foundation Health Pyschcare Servs., Inc., 24 27 Cal.4th 83, 114 (2000)) (internal quotations omitted). 28 Plaintiff does not allege any non-conclusory facts to support her contention that 5 1 YouTube’s Terms of Service are unconscionable or otherwise void because they prohibit punitive 2 damages. Moreover, a court in this district recently held that YouTube’s Terms of Service are 3 neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. See Darnaa, LLC v. Google, Inc., No. 15- 4 cv-03221-RMW, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161791, at *4-*10 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2015). 5 Accordingly, the Court holds that Plaintiff’s claim for “declaratory relief” fails to state a 6 claim upon which relief can be granted and GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss the claim. 7 b. Fraud (Claim Two) Plaintiff appears to premise her fraud claim upon four YouTube statements: (i) a 9 “misrepresentation” that partners will receive a certain percentage of advertising revenue, Compl. 10 ¶ 159; (ii) “false statement[s] of material fact” in the form of removing Plaintiff’s public domain 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 videos, id. ¶¶ 98, 163-64; (iii) notices that deceived Plaintiff “into believing that an authoritative 12 voice was correct in claiming a certain video owned by BMG Rights Management,” id. ¶ 173; and 13 (iv) a representation that Plaintiff “was not eligible for a counter-notification,” id. ¶ 174. 14 Fraud requires “(1) a misrepresentation, (2) with knowledge of its falsity, (3) with the 15 intent to induce another’s reliance on the misrepresentation, (4) justifiable reliance, and (5) 16 resulting damage.” Conroy v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 45 Cal. 4th 1244, 1255 (2009). In addition 17 to Iqbal’s plausibility requirement, fraud claims are subject to Rule 9(b), which requires a plaintiff 18 to “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud,” including “the who, what, when, 19 where, and how of the misconduct charged.” Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1124-25 20 (9th Cir. 2009). Fraud claims must be based on facts “specific enough to give defendants notice of 21 the particular misconduct . . . so that they can defend against the charge.” Id. 22 In addition to being partially barred by the CDA, Plaintiff’s fraud claim fails to satisfy 23 Rule 9(b). Plaintiff does not specify a YouTube statement that guarantees partners a certain 24 percentage of advertising revenue. See Compl. ¶¶ 158-62. Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that 25 YouTube made false representations by removing her public domain videos, but nowhere does she 26 identify a YouTube statement. See id. ¶¶ 163-72. As to YouTube’s statements regarding BMG 27 Rights Management and Plaintiff’s counter-notification eligibility, Plaintiff does not allege non- 28 conclusory facts indicating YouTube’s knowledge of falsity or intent to induce reliance. See id. 6 1 ¶¶ 173-74. Indeed, Plaintiff concedes that she did not rely on YouTube’s representation that she 2 was ineligible for counter notifications but instead submitted a “free-form counter-notification.” 3 Id. ¶ 174. 4 5 6 7 Because Plaintiff’s fraud claim is partially barred by the CDA and fails to comply with Rule 9(b), the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss with respect to this claim. c. Aiding and Abetting (Claim Three) Plaintiff’s aiding and abetting claim hinges on YouTube’s alleged assistance to (1) false 8 claimants who assert that they own rights to public domain videos that Plaintiff uploads to her 9 YouTube channel, see id. ¶¶ 175-83, and (2) YouTube employees who cyberstalk and harass 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Plaintiff, see id.¶ 36. A defendant may be liable for aiding and abetting another in the commission of an 12 intentional tort if the defendant “(a) knows the other’s conduct constitutes a breach of duty and 13 gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other to so act or (b) gives substantial 14 assistance to the other in accomplishing a tortious result and the person’s own conduct, separately 15 considered, constitutes a breach of duty to the third person.” Casey v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 127 16 Cal. App. 4th 1138, 1144 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005). 17 Plaintiff does not set forth any non-conclusory, plausible facts to support a finding that 18 Defendants knew of a “scam” by false claimants to steal Plaintiff’s YouTube partner earnings. 19 See Compl. ¶¶ 175-83. Similarly, she fails to assert any facts that allow the Court to reasonably 20 infer that YouTube employees cyberstalked or harassed her. See generally Compl. 21 22 23 The Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s aiding and abetting claim. d. Harassment (Claim Four) Plaintiff asserts that YouTube “began a campaign of harassment against [Plaintiff] with the 24 intention of terminating her account and shutting down her channel” and orchestrated “false 25 strikes and blocks to [P]laintiff’s channel.” See id. ¶¶ 185, 190. 26 California law defines harassment as requiring, in addition to other elements, conduct that 27 “serves no legitimate purpose” that “would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial 28 emotional distress.” Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.6; Rockridge Trust v. Wells Fargo, N.A., 985 F. 7 1 Supp. 2d 1110, 1155 (N.D. Cal. 2013). 2 As an initial matter, Plaintiff’s allegations that Defendants hacked her computer, 3 cyberstalked her, and intercepted her electronic communications are not supported by any non- 4 conclusory, plausible facts. See generally Compl. Furthermore, Plaintiff concedes that 5 YouTube’s Content ID system, which resulted in the alleged “false strikes and blocks” to her 6 YouTube channel, serves a legitimate purpose. See id. ¶ 89 (“YouTube’s Content ID system was 7 created to prevent copyright infringers from claiming legitimate copyright works.”). 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Accordingly, Plaintiff does not state a plausible claim for harassment, and the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s harassment claim. e. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Claim Five) Plaintiff’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress contends that Defendants 12 engaged in a “campaign of harassment” that included hundreds of phone calls, theft of Plaintiff’s 13 identity, problems with Plaintiff’s home computer, disruptions of Plaintiff’s internet connection, 14 gun violence, and “hundreds of false infringement claims and orchestrated strikes and blocks.” 15 See id. ¶¶ 194-208. 16 Intentional infliction of emotional distress requires “(1) extreme and outrageous conduct 17 by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, 18 emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff’s suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual 19 and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant’s outrageous conduct.” Doe v. 20 Gangland Prods., Inc., 730 F.3d 946, 960 (9th Cir. 2013). 21 Again, Plaintiff fails to plausibly allege that Defendants are connected to any of the 22 aforementioned conduct except for the alleged “hundreds of false infringement claims and 23 orchestrated strikes and blocks.” See id. ¶¶ 194-208. As to the false claims, strikes, and blocks, 24 Plaintiff does not proffer sufficient non-conclusory facts to support a finding that Defendants’ 25 conduct was “extreme and outrageous” or that Defendants intended, or possessed a reckless 26 disregard for, Plaintiff’s extreme emotional distress. See generally Compl. 27 28 The Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. 8 1 f. Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Claim Six) 2 Plaintiff next asserts a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing 3 premised upon alleged false copyright claims, strikes, and blocks issued against Plaintiff’s 4 YouTube channel, as well as Defendants’ role in “threatening, bullying, and harassing” Plaintiff. 5 See id. ¶¶ 209-22. 6 California recognizes claims for a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair 7 dealing under both tort and contract principles. See Oculus Innovative Scis., Inc. v. Nofil Corp., 8 No. C 06-01686 SI, 2007 WL 2600746, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 10, 2007). “A tort claim for breach 9 of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing requires proof of a special relationship between the parties, characterized by elements of public interest, adhesion and fiduciary 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 responsibility.” Id. (citations omitted). Under contract principles, the covenant of good faith and 12 fair dealing requires contracting parties to “discharge their contractual obligations fairly and in 13 good faith.” Mundy v. Household Fin. Corp., 885 F.2d 542, 544 (9th Cir. 1989). A plaintiff 14 asserting breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing sounding in contract must 15 allege “(1) the existence of a contract; (2) the plaintiff did all, or substantially all of the significant 16 things the contract required; (3) the conditions required for the defendant’s performance had 17 occurred; (4) the defendant unfairly interfered with the plaintiff’s right to receive the benefits of 18 the contract; and (5) the plaintiff was harmed by the defendant’s conduct.” Id. at *4 (citations 19 omitted). 20 As determined above, the CDA precludes any claim seeking to hold Defendants liable for 21 removing videos from Plaintiff’s YouTube channel. Furthermore, Plaintiff fails to plead any facts 22 to support a reasonable finding that Defendants issued copyright claims, strikes, and blocks in bad 23 faith as part of a conspiracy to steal Plaintiff’s YouTube partner earnings. See generally Compl. 24 In accord with the Court’s previous findings, Plaintiff simply does not allege any facts to plausibly 25 connect Defendants to the threatening, bullying, and harassment that she allegedly experienced. 26 27 Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. 28 9 g. Copyright Infringement (Claim Seven) 1 Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim alleges that Defendants engaged in “massive 2 3 intentional copyright infringement” by “falsely claiming copyright of public domain works.” See 4 Compl. ¶¶ 224-26. A direct copyright infringement claim requires a plaintiff to allege that she “owns the 5 6 copyright” allegedly infringed. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2004). 7 Furthermore, while 17 U.S.C. § 506(c) prohibits fraudulent copyright notices, “there is no private 8 cause of action.” Kwan v. Schlein, 441 F. Supp. 2d 491, 506 (S.D.N.Y. 2006); Donald Frederick 9 Evans & Associates, Inc. v. Cont'l Homes, Inc., 785 F.2d 897, 912-13 (11th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff does not contend that she owns a valid copyright to any of the videos at issue, and 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 as a private party, she cannot assert a claim for fraudulent copyright notice under 17 U.S.C. § 12 506(c). The Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s copyright infringement 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 claim. h. Email Tampering and Computer Hacking (Claims Eight and Nine) Plaintiff’s next claims assert “email tampering” and “computer hacking” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030. See Compl. ¶¶ 239-70. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, protects against a range of unauthorized computer access. See 18 U.S.C. § 1030. As the Court has previously found with respect to the vast majority of harassment, 21 cyberstalking, and hacking alleged, Plaintiff’s complaint does not include any non-conclusory 22 allegations to plausibly suggest that Defendants are responsible for, or even connected to, such 23 actions. See generally Compl. 24 25 26 27 28 Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for email tampering and computer hacking. i. Negligence (Claim Ten) Plaintiff’s final claim contends that Defendants were negligent for failing to (1) stop Plaintiff’s harassment, (2) “maintain[] internal control [over their] employees,” and (3) “develop 10 1 and document effective policies and procedures governing the acts of its YouTube employees.” 2 Id. ¶¶ 271-87. “Under California law, the elements of negligence are (1) the existence of a legal duty of 4 care, (2) breach of that duty and (3) proximate cause resulting in injury.” Rong Dong Li v. Akal 5 Sec., Inc., No. 14-55956, 2016 WL 2866068, at *2 (9th Cir. May 17, 2016) (citing Castellon v. 6 U.S. Bancorp, 163 Cal.Rptr.3d 637, 640 (Ct.App.2013)). A claim for negligent supervision 7 requires (1) an employer supervising an employee; (2) who is incompetent or unfit; (3) the 8 employer had reason to believe undue risk of harm would exist because of the employment; and 9 (4) the harm occurs. Albert v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., 236 Cal. App. 4th 1281, 1292 (Cal. Ct. App. 10 2015). There is no liability for negligent supervision without the employer’s knowledge that the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 3 employee “could not be trusted to act properly without being supervised.” Juarez v. Boy Scouts of 12 Am., Inc., 81 Cal. App. 4th 377, 395 (Cal. Ct. App. 2000). 13 Again, the primary issue with Plaintiff’s negligence claim is her failure to plead any non- 14 conclusory, plausible facts to suggest that Defendants’ employees stalked or harassed her. See 15 generally Compl. Furthermore, Plaintiff’s complaint is devoid of any allegation that Defendants 16 owed her a duty of care that they subsequently breached. Id. As to a claim for negligent 17 supervision, even if Plaintiff had pled non-conclusory facts to allow the Court to reasonably infer 18 that Defendants’ employees stalked and harassed her, she fails to plead that Defendants’ possessed 19 knowledge that their employees were incompetent or unfit. Id. 20 21 22 As such, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s negligence claim. iii. Defendant Alphabet, Inc. is Not a Proper Defendant to this Action Finally, the Court agrees that Defendant Alphabet, Inc. should be dismissed from this 23 action because there is no “basis to depart from the black-letter law that a parent company cannot 24 be held liable for the alleged wrongs of its subsidiaries.” Mot. at 24. 25 The Supreme Court has declared that “[i]t is a general principle of corporate law deeply 26 ingrained in our economic and legal systems that a parent corporation (so-called because of 27 control through ownership of another corporation’s stock) is not liable for the acts of its 28 subsidiaries.” United States v. Bestfoods, 524 U.S. 51, 61 (1998). In order for a court to pierce 11 1 the corporate veil and hold a parent company liable for the actions of its subsidiaries, there must 2 be an injustice that results from the illusory nature of the corporate separateness. Nordberg v. 3 Trilegiant Corp., 445 F. Supp. 2d 1082, 1102 (N.D. Cal. 2006) (citing Katzir’s Floor & Home 4 Design, Inc. v., 394 F.3d 1143, 1149 (9th Cir. 2004)). Plaintiff does not make any specific allegations against Alphabet, Inc., and provides no 5 6 reason for the Court to depart from the “deeply ingrained” principle that a parent company is not 7 liable for the wrongs of its subsidiaries. The Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Defendant Alphabet, Inc. from this 8 9 10 action. III. CONCLUSION United States District Court Northern District of California 11 For the aforementioned reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss 12 Plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety. The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE Plaintiff’s claims 13 based on Defendants’ removal of her videos. The Court DISMISSES WITH LEAVE TO 14 AMEND Plaintiff’s remaining claims. Plaintiff may file a first amended complaint (“FAC”) 15 within 21 days of the date of this Order. If Plaintiff does not file an FAC within 21 days, the case 16 will be dismissed with prejudice, and the file will be closed. 17 The Court cautions Plaintiff that currently there are no plausible, non-conclusory facts pled 18 to connect Defendants to any of the harassment, cyberstalking, or computer hacking that Plaintiff 19 allegedly experienced. 20 The Court strongly encourages Plaintiff to schedule an appointment with the pro se Legal Help 21 Center, either by calling 415-782-8982 or by signing up in the appointment book located on the table 22 outside the door of the Legal Help Center at the United States Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 23 15th Floor, Room 2796, in San Francisco, California. 24 25 26 27 28 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 8, 2016 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge 12

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