Judge Throws Out Text-Spam Lawsuit Against Yahoo

Yahoo has prevailed in a lawsuit alleging that it violated a federal consumer protection law by sending SMS messages to the wrong recipient.

In an opinion issued on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that Yahoo didn't violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending the misdirected texts. Baylson granted Yahoo summary judgment in the case, which was filed almost one year ago.

Baylson said in his ruling that Yahoo's SMS-sending system didn't rely on using an automated dialer to transmit messages. The federal statute at the center of the case specifically prohibits companies from using automated dialers to call or text consumers' cell phones, without their written permission. The judge ruled there was no evidence that Yahoo's dialing system “had the capacity to randomly or sequentially generate telephone numbers ... as required by the statutory definition of [automated dialers.]



The decision stems from a lawsuit by Philadelphia resident Bill Dominguez, who alleged in court papers that Yahoo sent him thousands of unwanted SMS messages after he purchased a used smartphone from T-Mobile in December 2011. Dominguez said that he believes the previous phone's owner arranged to receive SMS alerts from Yahoo whenever he received emails. Dominguez -- who doesn't have a Yahoo email address -- alleged that at one point he was receiving between 50 and 60 SMS alerts a day informing him of new emails.

He asked Yahoo to stop sending him the text messages, but was told by a company supervisor that only the phone's former owner could arrange to stop the texts. Dominguez said he didn't know the former owner and had no way to contact him. He said in his court papers that at one point he threatened to resort to litigation. The Yahoo supervisor Dominguez was speaking with allegedly replied: “So sue me.”

While Yahoo won the case by Dominguez, the company recently was unable to convince a judge to dismiss a different cell-phone spam lawsuit, brought by California resident Rafael David Sherman. He alleged that Yahoo sent him an SMS stating that he had received an instant message from a Yahoo user. Sherman said in his complaint that he never gave Yahoo his cell phone number or consented to receive SMS messages from the company.

U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in the Southern District of California denied Yahoo's request for summary judgment in that matter. He specifically rejected Yahoo's argument that it didn't use an automated dialer system to send Sherman a message.

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