Communications Decency Act Doesn't Insulate StubHub From Scalping Lawsuit

Today, the North Carolina Business Court ruled in Hill v. StubHub, Inc. that the Communications Decency Act didn't provide a defense to on-line ticket seller StubHub against claims that it had violated North Carolina's anti-scalping laws.

In his opinion, Judge Tennille allowed Plaintiffs to proceed on their unfair and deceptive practices claims against StubHub.  He dismissed, however, several other claims brought by the Hills, who were frustrated purchasers of Hannah Montana concert tickets for their eight year old daughter. 

According to the Amended Complaint, the Hills' daughter had  repeatedly told her parents that she had a "sincere and strong" wish to see this show.  Mrs. Hill tried buying tickets on-line when they went on sale, but they sold out in moments. The Hills, probably under unrelenting “sincere and strong” pressure from their daughter, bought four tickets to the concert on StubHub, at a price nearly $100 per ticket higher than the $56 face value of each ticket.

Then, the Hills sued, alleging that  StubHub, along with the unnamed John Doe defendants who actually owned the tickets, had violated North Carolina’s anti-scalping law. The Hills sought class certification, not just for those who had to purchase tickets via StubHub for the Hannah Montana show, but also for the purchasers of tickets to the “many concerts, sporting events and other events and at numerous venues throughout the State of North Carolina” for which tickets had been sold through StubHub. The Hills made multiple claims: (1) violation of North Carolina's anti-scalping statute (2) civil conspiracy, (3) tortious action in concert, (4) unfair and deceptive practices, and (5) punitive damages.

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Internet Advertising Didn't Subject Defendants To Personal Jurisdiction In North Carolina

Burgess v. Vitola, 2008 NCBC 4 (N.C. Super. Ct. Feb. 26, 2008)(Diaz)

Plaintiff sued the defendants, thirty out-of-state dentists and lawyers, charging that they had forced advertisements for their services onto his computer. He alleged that this had been accomplished by a “bug, worm, or virus.” 

Plaintiff based jurisdiction on N.C.G.S. §1-75.4(4)(a), which allows for the assertion of jurisdiction when “solicitation or services activities were carried on within this State or by or on behalf of the defendant.”

The Court didn't agree and granted the Motion to Dismiss, holding “it makes absolutely no sense that Moving Defendants, all of whom operate law or dental practices in states far removed from North Carolina, would have any interest in soliciting [plaintiff], or any other North Carolina resident.” The defendants, via affidavits, had denied such interest, although many of them did have "passive" Internet websites.

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