Court Rules Company Not Liable for Employee’s E-mail Threats

December 18, 2006

A California Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer whose employee sends threatening e-mail messages and posts them on an Internet bulletin board using the company’s computer is not liable as an interactive service provider under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

In Michelangelo Delfino et al. vs. Agilent Technologies Inc., Michelangelo Delfino and Mary E. Day (collectively, plaintiffs) brought suit against Agilent Technologies because they had received threatening e-mails from Cameron Moore, who formerly was employed by Agilent. The messages were sent to Delfino and posted on Internet bulletin boards. The plaintiffs claimed there was intentional infliction of emotional distress and a purported claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against Moore and Agilent. They claimed Agilent was aware of the e-mails but took no steps to prevent its employee from such actions.

However, Agilent moved for summary judgment on various grounds, and the trial court granted the motion on the basis that Agilent was immune from suit under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Specifically, the court held that under title 47 of the United States Code section 230(c)(1), Agilent was a “provider . . . of an interactive computer service” entitled to immunity under the CDA.”

A lower court agreed Agilent was not negligent, and the plaintiffs appealed. And in the final decision, the Appeals Court agreed with the lower court.

“We are aware of no case that has held that a corporate employer is a provider of interactive computer services under circumstances such as those presented here,” the Appeals Court said in its opinion. “We conclude, therefore, that the claims against Agilent treated it ‘as a publisher or speaker’ (ยง 230(c)(1)) of Moore’s messages and that plaintiffs’ claims were among those to which immunity under the CDA potentially applies.”

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.