Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. v. Victor

Filing 58


Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 OAKLAND DIVISION 9 SUNBELT RENTALS, INC., Case No: C 13-4240 SBA 10 Plaintiff, 11 vs. 12 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DISMISS DEFENDANT’S COUNTERCLAIMS SANTIAGO VICTOR, Dkt. 39 13 Defendant. 14 15 16 Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “Sunbelt”) filed the instant action against its 17 former employee, Santiago Victor (“Defendant” or “Victor”), alleging that he 18 misappropriated trade secrets upon his termination. Victor has filed five counterclaims 19 against Sunbelt, accusing it, inter alia, of violating the federal Wiretap Act and the Stored 20 Communications Act (“SCA”) by reviewing his text messages on the iPhone which Sunbelt 21 had previously issued to him. The parties are presently before the Court on Plaintiff’s 22 Motion to Dismiss Defendants Counterclaims. Having read and considered the papers filed 23 in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the 24 motion and dismisses Victor’s counterclaims, with leave to amend. The Court, in its 25 discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). 27 28 1 I. BACKGROUND 2 A. 3 During the relevant time period, Victor worked as an outside sales representative for RELEVANT FACTS 4 Sunbelt, an equipment rental company. Countercl. ¶ 11, Dkt. 34. In August 2013, Victor 5 gave his two-week notice to Sunbelt, stating that he had taken a job with one of its 6 competitors—Ahern Rentals (“Ahern”). Id. ¶ 16. Upon learning of Victor’s intent to leave 7 the company, Sunbelt immediately dismissed him. Id. 8 During his time with Sunbelt, Victor was assigned a Sunbelt-owned iPhone 9 (“Sunbelt iPhone”) and a Sunbelt-owned iPad for both work and personal purposes. Id. 10 ¶¶ 12-14. Thereafter, Victor “created and paid for a personal ‘Apple account’ that was 11 linked to both devices.” Id. ¶ 15. Victor returned the devices to Sunbelt after his 12 separation. Id. ¶¶ 16, 18, 20. 13 Victor’s new employer, Ahern, provided him a new iPhone (“Ahern iPhone”). Id. 14 ¶19-20. At some point thereafter, Victor registered or linked his Ahern iPhone to the same 15 personal Apple account he had previously used while at Sunbelt. Id. ¶19. This process 16 “synced” Victor’s Ahern iPhone with his personal Apple account. Id. 17 Several weeks later, when he received a new iPad from Ahern (“Ahern iPad”), 18 Victor linked the new iPad to his personal Apple account. Id. ¶ 20. In the process of 19 registering the Ahern iPad, Victor discovered the telephone number associated with the 20 Sunbelt iPhone was still linked to his personal Apple account. Id. Because Victor had 21 failed to unlink the Sunbelt iPhone from his account, his “private electronic data and 22 electronic messages,” including text messages sent to and from his Ahern iPhone, also were 23 transmitted to the Sunbelt iPhone which he had returned to Sunbelt. Id. ¶ 20, 21. Victor 24 then deleted the Sunbelt number from his account “to ensure that his new Ahern issued 25 Apple products were not in any way linked to Sunbelt.” Id. 26 Victor claims that after his departure, Sunbelt “began actively investigating Victor’s 27 post-employment acts, conduct, and communications.” Id. ¶ 21. In the course of such 28 investigation, Sunbelt allegedly “invaded Victor’s privacy rights by accessing, -2- 1 intercepting, monitoring, reviewing, storing and using Victor’s post-employment private 2 electronic data and electronic communications (including but not limited to text messages 3 sent and received from Victor’s Ahern, Rentals Inc. issued iPhone) without authority, 4 permission, or consent.” Id. (emphasis added). Victor further accuses Sunbelt of 5 “intentionally accessing Victor’s private electronic communications and data, without 6 authorization, from facilities through which Victor’s electronic communications were 7 provided and stored (i.e., Victor’s cellular phone provider’s network which stores Victor’s 8 electronic communications, and or Apple's cloud based network where Victor's electronic 9 communication pertaining to his Apple Account are processed and stored) and where such 10 services and communications were restricted to access by Victor, which Sunbelt obtained 11 through improper means.” Id. ¶ 23 (emphasis added). No particular facts are alleged to 12 support these assertions. 13 B. 14 On September 12, 2013, Sunbelt filed a complaint against Victor in this Court 15 alleging four state law causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) misappropriation of trade 16 secrets; (3) unfair competition; and (4) breach of duty of loyalty. Dkt. 1. Victor then filed 17 an Answer, and later amended an Answer and Counterclaim. The gist of the Counterclaim 18 is that Sunbelt improperly read the text messages that were inadvertently transmitted to his 19 Sunbelt iPhone. He alleges claims for violations of: (1) the Wiretap Act; (2) the SCA; (3) 20 California Penal Code § 502 et seq.; (4) California Penal Code § 630 et seq.; and (5) his 21 right to privacy. See Countercl. ¶ 24. Each of these claims is based on the same set of 22 facts—Sunbelt’s purported interception, acquisition and use of Victor’s electronic 23 communications (i.e., text messages) sent to and from his Ahern iPhone. Sunbelt now 24 moves to dismiss all counterclaims. This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for 25 adjudication. 26 II. 27 28 PROCEDURAL HISTORY LEGAL STANDARD Pleadings in federal court actions are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the -3- 1 pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 12(b)(6) “tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.” Navarro 2 v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 3 12(b)(6) for either failure to state a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts to support a 4 cognizable legal theory. Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 5 (9th Cir. 2008). “[C]ourts must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other 6 sources courts ordinarily examine when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in 7 particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a 8 court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 9 322 (2007). The court is to “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and 10 construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Outdoor Media 11 Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont, 506 F.3d 895, 899-900 (9th Cir. 2007). 12 To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, 13 accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 14 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 15 The complaint must afford the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims against them, and 16 the grounds upon which the claims are based. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 17 512 (2002). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 18 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When a complaint or claim 19 is dismissed, “[l]eave to amend should be granted unless the district court determines that 20 the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Knappenberger 21 v. City of Phoenix, 566 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2009). 22 III. DISCUSSION 23 A. 24 The Wiretap Act imposes civil liability against any person who “intentionally WIRETAP ACT 25 intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to 26 intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication.” 18 U.S.C §§ 2511(1)(a) (emphasis 27 added); id. § 2520(a). The Act defines “intercept” as “the aural or other acquisition of the 28 contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, -4- 1 mechanical, or other device.” 18 U.S.C. § 2510(4). “Such acquisition occurs ‘when the 2 contents of a wire communication are captured or redirected in any way.’” Noel v. Hall, 3 568 F.3d 743, 749 (9th Cir. 2009). The inception must be intentional, as opposed to 4 inadvertent. See Sanders v. Robert Bosch Corp., 38 F.3d 736, 742-43 (4th Cir. 1994). 5 Here, Victor has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish that Sunbelt 6 “intentionally intercepted” any of his text messages. By Victor’s own account, the text 7 messages appeared on his Sunbelt iPhone as a result of Victor’s act of syncing his new 8 iPhone to his Apple account without first un-linking his Sunbelt iPhone. Countercl. ¶¶ 19, 9 20. In other words, Sunbelt did not intentionally capture or redirect Victor’s text messages 10 to the Sunbelt iPhone—the transmission of those messages was entirely Victor’s doing. 11 Given these circumstances, the requisite intentional conduct is lacking. Sanders, 38 F.3d at 12 742-43; Shubert v. Metrophone, Inc., 898 F.2d 401, 405 (3rd Cir. 1990) (noting that 13 Congress specifically intended that “inadvertent interceptions are not crimes under [the 14 Wiretap Act]”). 15 Nor has Victor alleged facts sufficient to establish that Sunbelt acted to “intercept” 16 the text messages or any other electronic communications. The Ninth Circuit applies a 17 “narrow definition of ‘intercept.’” Konop v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 302 F.3d 868, 878 18 (9th Cir. 2002). For a communication to be intercepted, “it must be acquired during 19 transmission, not while it is in electronic storage.” Id. Though Victor vaguely alleges that 20 Sunbelt intercepted his electronic communications, i.e., his text messages, he provides no 21 facts to support this otherwise conclusory assertion.1 If anything, the pleadings suggest that 22 Sunbelt read Victor’s text messages after they were sent and received on the Sunbelt 23 iPhone, which is insufficient to demonstrate intentional interception under the Wiretap Act. 24 See NovelPoster v. Javitch Canfield Group, No. C 13-5186 WHO, 2014 WL 3845148, *10 25 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2014) (reading emails that have already been received in an email 26 1 Victor’s Counterclaim repeatedly makes vague and formulaic references to “private and electronic communications,” but only specifically identifies “text messages” as having been allegedly intercepted. See Countercl. ¶ 22. Victor never specifies how the 28 alleged interception transpired. 27 -5- 1 account’s inbox does not constitute interception under the Wiretap Act because the 2 transmission had already occurred). 3 Although it is clear that Victor’s Wiretap Act claim must be dismissed, what is less 4 clear is whether leave to amend should be granted. Given the almost instantaneous 5 transmission of text messages, the window during which an interception may occur is 6 exceedingly narrow. NovelPoster, 2014 WL 3845148, *10 (citing United States v. Steiger, 7 318 F.3d 1039, 1050 (11th Cir. 2003)). Thus, “unless some type of automatic routing 8 software is used” to divert the text message, interception of [a text message] within the 9 prohibition of the Wiretap Act is virtually impossible.” Id. (internal quotations and citation 10 omitted). Given these constraints, it is doubtful that Victor will be able to allege facts, 11 consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, to state a claim for violation of the 12 Wiretap Act. Nonetheless, the Court will afford Victor an opportunity to amend this claim 13 and therefore DISMISSES his claim under the Wiretap Act, with leave to amend.2 14 B. 15 The SCA creates “a cause of action against anyone who “intentionally accesses 16 without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is 17 provided . . . and thereby obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or 18 electronic communication while it is in electronic storage.’” Theofel v. Farey-Jones, 359 19 F.3d 1066, 1072 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701(a)(1), 2707(a)). “[E]lectronic 20 storage” is defined as either “temporary, intermediate storage . . . incidental to . . . 21 electronic transmission,” or “storage . . . for purposes of backup protection.” 28 U.S.C. 22 § 2510(17). 23 STORED COMMUNICATIONS ACT According to Victor, Sunbelt violated the SCA by virtue of having, Intentionally accessed, without authorization, facilities through which Victor’s electronic communications were provided and stored (i.e., Victor’s cellular phone provider’s network which stores Victor’s electronic communications, and or Apple’s 24 25 26 2 Sunbelt also contends that Victor has failed to allege any facts showing that it intercepted his text messages “through the use of any . . . device.” 18 U.S.C. § 2510(4) 28 (emphasis added). Since it is clear that the Counterclaim fails to allege intentional interception, the Court need not reach that issue at this juncture. 27 -6- 3 cloud based network where Victor’s electronic communication pertaining to his Apple Account are processed and stored) and where such services and communications were restricted to access by Victor, which Sunbelt obtained through improper means. 4 Countercl. ¶ 45. No facts are presented, however, to support the conclusory assertion that 5 Sunbelt accessed Victor’s text messages through his cellular telephone provider or Apple’s 6 network. Moreover, in his opposition, Victor contradicts himself by stating that the text 7 messages allegedly accessed by Sunbelt “were not accessed through, nor stored on a 8 website.” Opp’n at 4 (emphasis added). To the extent that Victor is claiming that Sunbelt 9 accessed his text messages by reviewing the messages on his Sunbelt iPhone—as he does 10 elsewhere in his Counterclaim, such conduct does not violate the SCA. See Garcia v. City 11 of Laredo, Tex., 702 F.3d 788, 793 (5th Cir. 2012) (holding that text messages and pictures 12 stored on a cellular telephone do not constitute “electronic storage” for purposes of the 13 SCA). This claim is DISMISSED with leave to amend. 1 2 14 C. 15 Section 502 of the California Penal Code prohibits unauthorized access to CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE § 502 16 computers, computer systems, and computer networks, and provides for a civil remedy in 17 the form of compensatory damages, injunctive relief, and other equitable relief. Cal. Penal 18 Code § 502. Section 502 is an anti-hacking statute intended to prohibit the unauthorized 19 use of any computer system for improper or illegitimate purpose. Yee v. Lin, No. C 12- 20 02474 WHA, 2012 WL 4343778, *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2012). 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Victor alleges that Sunbelt violated subsections (c)(1), (2), (3), (4), (6), and (7) of Section 502, which provides that a person is liable if he: (1) Knowingly accesses and without permission alters, damages, deletes, destroys, or otherwise uses any data, computer, computer system, or computer network in order to either (A) devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, deceive, or extort, or (B) wrongfully control or obtain money, property, or data. (2) Knowingly accesses and without permission takes, copies, or makes use of any data from a computer, computer system, or computer network, or takes or copies any supporting documentation, whether existing or residing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network. -7- (3) Knowingly and without permission uses or causes to be used computer services. (4) Knowingly accesses and without permission adds, alters, damages, deletes, or destroys any data, computer software, or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network. ... (6) Knowingly and without permission provides or assists in providing a means of accessing a computer, computer system, or computer network in violation of this section. (7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.” 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Id. § 502(c); Countercl. ¶ 54. For purposes of Section 502, parties act “without permission” 10 when they “circumvent[ ] technical or code-based barriers in place to restrict or bar a user’s 11 access.” Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc., 844 F. Supp. 2d 1025, 1036 (N.D. Cal. 12 2012). 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 In his third Counterclaim, Victor alleges as follows: On information and belief, Sunbelt violated California Penal Code section 502 when it improperly began accessing, intercepting, monitoring, reviewing and using Victor’s postemployment private electronic data and electronic communications without Victor’s knowledge, authorization or consent. On information and belief, Sunbelt additionally, or in the alternative, violated of Penal Code § 502 by intentionally accessing, without authorization, facilities through which Victor’s electronic communications were provided and stored (i.e.,Victor’s cellular phone provider’s network which stores Victor’s electronic communications, and or Apple’s cloud based network where Victor’s electronic communication pertaining to his Apple Account are processed and stored) andwhere such services and communications were restricted to access by Victor, which Sunbelt obtained through improper means. 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Countercl. ¶ 56 (emphasis added). These fact-barren and vague allegations are precisely the type of “threadbare recitals” proscribed by Twombly and Iqbal. Moreover, to the extent that Victor is claiming that Sunbelt accessed his unspecified “private electronic data and electronic communications” through the Apple account or his cellular telephone provider’s computer network, such a claim fails on the ground that no facts are alleged showing that Sunbelt did so by circumventing technical or code-based barriers intended to restrict such -8- 1 access. Facebook, 844 F. Supp. 2d at 1036. To the contrary, Victor simply avers that 2 Sunbelt reviewed his text messages that he caused, albeit inadvertently, to be sent to the 3 Sunbelt iPhone. The Court therefore concludes that Victor has failed to state a claim under 4 Section 502 and DISMISSES said claim with leave to amend. 5 D. 6 The California Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”) is intended to prevent privacy 7 invasions facilitated by modern technology and devices. Cal. Penal Code § 630. “The 8 analysis for a violation of CIPA is the same as that under the federal Wiretap Act.” 9 NovelPoster, 2014 WL 3845148, *12 (granting judgment on pleadings on CIPA claim for 10 same reasons underlying the dismissal of the plaintiff’s Wiretap Act claim, i.e., the lack of 11 intentional interception). As discussed, Victor has failed to plausibly allege a violation of 12 the Wiretap Act; a fortiori, he is also unable to allege a violation of CIPA. This claim is 13 DISMISSED with leave to amend. CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE § 630 14 E. 15 California recognizes four categories of the tort of invasion of privacy: (1) intrusion INVASION OF PRIVACY 16 upon seclusion; (2) public disclosure of private facts; (3) false light in the public eye; and 17 (4) appropriation of name or likeness. Shulman v. Group W Prods., Inc., 18 Cal.4th 200, 18 214 n. 4 (1998). Victor fails to indicate which type of invasion of privacy claim he is 19 alleging. Nonetheless, based on the sparse allegations presented, it appears that he is 20 attempting to state a claim for intrusion upon seclusion. 21 “A privacy violation based on the common law tort of intrusion has two elements. 22 First, the defendant must intentionally intrude into a place, conversation, or matter as to 23 which the plaintiff has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Second, the intrusion must 24 occur in a manner highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Hernandez v. Hillsides, Inc., 25 47 Cal.4th 272, 285 (2009). “The tort is proven only if the plaintiff had an objectively 26 reasonable expectation of seclusion or solitude in the place, conversation or data source.” 27 Shulman v. Grp. W Prods., Inc., 18 Cal.4th 200, 232 (1998). A plaintiff pursuing an 28 invasion of privacy action must have conducted himself or herself in a manner consistent -9- 1 with an actual expectation of privacy, i.e., he or she must not have engaged in conduct 2 which manifests a voluntary consent to the invasive actions of defendant. Hill v. Nat’l 3 Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 7 Cal.4th 1, 26 (1994). 4 Victor contends that, as a matter of law, an employee has a reasonable expectation of 5 privacy with respect to text messages contained on employer-owned mobile telephones. 6 The decisional authorities cited by Victor, however, are inapposite. In City of Ontario v. 7 Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010), a police officer was issued a pager by his police department 8 which was subject to a limit on the number of characters that could be sent and received 9 each month. Id. at 750. After becoming concerned that the officer was repeatedly 10 exceeding his character limit, the police department obtained transcripts of the text 11 messages from the wireless carrier to ascertain whether the texts were work-related or 12 personal. Id. at 750-51. After finding that most of the text messages were not work- 13 related, the police department took disciplinary action against the officer. Id. at 753. The 14 police officer then brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the city, police 15 department and police chief, alleging that the police department’s review of his text 16 messages violated the Fourth Amendment. 17 In the addressing the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim, the United States 18 Supreme Court assumed, without deciding, that the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation 19 of privacy in text messages sent to him on an employer-provided pager; however, the Court 20 ultimately upheld the police department’s review of those messages as reasonable under the 21 Fourth Amendment. Id. at 760. Despite Victor’s suggestion to the contrary, the Supreme 22 Court did not hold that an employee automatically has an expectation of privacy in 23 electronic messages stored on a device provided by his employer. Quon also is 24 distinguishable on its facts. Unlike the police officer in Quon, Victor was no longer an 25 employee of the company that owned the electronic device at issue at the time the invasion 26 of privacy allegedly occurred. Moreover, unlike the police department, which requested 27 transcripts of the text messages from the wireless carrier, Sunbelt is not alleged to have 28 affirmatively undertaken any action to obtain and review the text messages or any other - 10 - 1 electronic data. Rather, the electronic communications appeared on Sunbelt’s iPhone 2 because of actions taken by Victor. 3 Victor’s citation to United States v. Finley, 477 F.3d 250 (5th Cir. 2007) fares no 4 better. In that case, a criminal defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress 5 text messages and call records which law enforcement officials had obtained through a 6 warrantless search of his employer-issued cell phone. In addressing the threshold issue of 7 whether the defendant had standing to raise a Fourth Amendment challenge, the Fifth 8 Circuit held that the mere fact that the employer owned the phone and had access to its 9 contents did not ipso facto demonstrate that defendant correspondingly had no expectation 10 of privacy in his call records and text messages. Id. at 259. In reaching its decision, the 11 court specifically noted that the defendant had undertaken precautions to maintain the 12 privacy of data stored on his phone and that he “had a right to exclude others from using the 13 phone.” Id. Unlike the defendant in Finley, Victor was no longer an employee of the 14 company which owned the cell phone to which the subject text messages had been sent. In 15 addition, Victor had no right to exclude others from accessing the Sunbelt iPhone—which 16 he did not own or possess and no longer had any right to access. Moreover, rather than 17 undertake precautions to maintain the privacy of his text messages, Victor did just the 18 opposite by failing to unlink his Sunbelt iPhone from his Apple account, which, in turn, 19 facilitated the transmission of those messages to an iPhone exclusively owned, controlled 20 and possessed by his former employer. 21 Victor’s privacy claim also fails on the ground that he has failed to show an 22 intrusion into a “place, conversation, or matter as to which the plaintiff has a reasonable 23 expectation of privacy.” Hernandez, 47 Cal.4th at 285. As noted, Victor cannot 24 legitimately claim an expectation of privacy in a “place,” i.e., the Sunbelt iPhone, which 25 belongs to his former employer and to which he has no right to access. Nor can Victor 26 claim a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to his text messages, in general. The 27 pleadings do not identify the contents of any particular text messages, and instead, refer 28 generally to “private electronic data and electronic communications.” Countercl. ¶ 79. - 11 - 1 This and other courts have concluded that there is no “legally protected privacy interest and 2 reasonable expectation of privacy” in electronic messages, “in general.” In re Yahoo Mail 3 Litig., -- F. Supp. 2d --, 2014 WL 3962824, *16 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2014) (citing cases).3 4 Rather, a privacy interest can exist, if at all, only with respect to the content of those 5 communications. In any event, even if Victor were claiming an expectation of privacy with 6 respect to the specific content of his text messages (which he has not specified), the facts 7 alleged demonstrate that he failed to comport himself in a manner consistent with an 8 objectively reasonable expectation of privacy. By his own admission, Victor personally 9 caused the transmission of his text messages to the Sunbelt iPhone by syncing his new 10 devices to his Apple account without first unlinking his Sunbelt iPhone.4 As such, even if 11 he subjectively harbored an expectation of privacy in his text messages, such expectation 12 cannot be characterized as objectively reasonable, since it was Victor’s conduct that directly 13 caused the transmission of his text messages to Sunbelt in the first instance. See Hill, 14 7 Cal.4th at 26. 15 The above notwithstanding, the facts alleged in Victor’s fifth counterclaim are 16 insufficient to show that Sunbelt intruded into Victor’s privacy in a manner highly 17 offensive to a reasonable person. “Actionable invasions of privacy must be sufficiently 18 serious in their nature, scope, and actual or potential impact to constitute an egregious 19 breach of the social norms underlying the privacy right.” Hill, 7 Cal. 4th at 37. In addition, 20 the plaintiff must show “that the use of plaintiff’s information was highly offensive.” 21 Folgelstrom v. Lamps Plus, Inc., 195 Cal. App. 4th 986, 993 (2011) (emphasis added) 22 (upholding the demurrer to plaintiff’s common law invasion of privacy claim where, 23 3 Victor also does not specify whether his claim is predicated upon text messages sent by him, received by him, or both. With respect to messages he transmitted, there is 25 authority finding that a plaintiff has no reasonable expectation of privacy in messages sent to third parties. See Fetsch v. City of Roseburg, No. 6:11-cv-6343-TC, 2012 WL 6742665, 26 *10 *(D.Or. Dec. 31, 2012) (plaintiff had no expectation of privacy in text messages sent from his phone because relinquished control of them once they were transmitted). 24 27 4 28 Victor vaguely alleges that Sunbelt intercepted his electronic communications. He provides no factual support for this conclusory assertion. See Countercl. ¶ 77. - 12 - 1 finding that even if the customer addresses were obtained through “questionable” means, 2 there was “no allegation that Lamps Plus used the address once obtained for an offensive or 3 improper purpose.”). 4 Here, Victor alleges only that Sunbelt acted in a “highly offensive” manner by 5 “accessing, intercepting, monitoring, reviewing, storing and using [his] post-employment 6 private electronic data and electronic communications without [his] knowledge, 7 authorization or consent as part of an unreasonably intrusive and unauthorized investigation 8 into Victor’s post-employment conduct.” Countercl. ¶ 79. Victor offers no factual support 9 for these conclusory assertions. In particular, he provides no details regarding the specific 10 conduct by Sunbelt that amounts to “accessing, intercepting, monitoring, reviewing, storing 11 and using [his] post-employment private electronic data and electronic communications.” 12 Id. He also fails to aver any facts to establish that Sunbelt’s use of the intercepted 13 communications was highly offensive. See Folgelstrom, 195 Cal. App. 4th at 993. The 14 possibility that Sunbelt may have reviewed text messages sent to a cell phone which it 15 owned and controlled—without more—is insufficient to establish an offensive use. As 16 with his other claims, Victor’s formulaic recitation of an invasion of privacy claim is 17 inconsistent with the federal pleading requirements of Rule 8. This claim is DISMISSED 18 with leave to amend. 19 IV. CONCLUSION 20 For the reasons stated above, 21 IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 22 1. Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss Defendants Counterclaims is GRANTED. 23 2. Defendant shall have twenty-one (21) days from the date this Order is filed to 24 amend his counterclaims, consistent with the Court’s rulings. Defendant is warned that any 25 factual allegations set forth in his amended pleading must be made in good faith and 26 consistent with Rule 11. The failure to timely file the amended counterclaim and/or the 27 failure to comply with this Order will result in the dismissal of all counterclaims with 28 prejudice. - 13 - 1 2 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: August 28, 2014 ______________________________ SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG United States District Judge 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 - 14 -

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?