Appeals Court Sides With Yahoo In Battle Over Unwanted Text Messages

Siding with Yahoo, a federal appellate court has refused to revive a robo-texting lawsuit brought by a man who alleged that the company sent him more than 27,000 text alerts intended for someone else.

The ruling, issued Tuesday by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, stems from a 2013 complaint filed by Philadelphia resident Bill Dominguez. He alleged that Yahoo sent him thousands of text alerts intended for the phone's previous owner, who had enrolled in a former Yahoo service that converted emails to text messages, and then forwarded them to users' phones.

Dominguez alleged in a class-action complaint that Yahoo violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from using automated dialers to send SMS messages to consumers. He said in court papers that he complained about the messages to Yahoo, but was informed that only the phone's former owner could arrange to stop the texts. Dominguez also said he doesn't know the former owner or how to contact that person.

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Yahoo said it was entitled to prevail in the matter because the system it used in 2013 to power the email-to-text service didn't meet the definition of "automated dialer. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Baylson in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with Yahoo.

Dominguez then asked the 3rd Circuit to revive the lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit rejected that request on Tuesday, ruling that Dominguez had not proven that Yahoo's system was an autodialer.

"The record indicates that the Email SMS Service sent messages only to numbers that had been individually and manually inputted into its system by a user," the appellate judges wrote. "There can be little doubt that Dominguez suffered great annoyance as a result of the unwanted text messages. But those messages were sent precisely because the prior owner of Dominguez’s telephone number had affirmatively opted to receive them, not because of random number generation."

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