Minors allege that Amazon’s Alexa service improperly shops or makes use of their voiceprints. The district court docket denied Amazon’s request to pressure arbitration of the claims primarily based on the truth that the plaintiffs, who had been minors, weren’t signatories (or had not agreed to) to the phrases of service for the Alexa system. There isn’t any dispute that if the dad and mom had introduced the claims, their claims can be topic to arbitration.
The district court docket held that as non-signatories, Amazon can’t pressure the minors to arbitrate their claims. The Ninth Circuit affirms in an unpublished opinion. The key query under Washington regulation is whether or not the minors are asserting claims arising out of the agreement [citing to Townsend v. Quadrant Corp.]. If the minor plaintiffs had been asserting contract-based claims, then they might be profiting from the underlying contract and can be topic to “equitable estoppel” (and can be compelled to arbitrate their claims regardless of being non-signatories). Here, they assert statutory claims that come up independently of the phrases of service so this rule doesn’t apply.
Amazon additionally argued that it needs to be allowed to invoke the “close relationship” principle of estoppel. The court docket says Washington courts don’t seem to have acknowledged this principle to compel arbitration.
Amazon doesn’t must face discovery simply but. It ought to have a chance to file a movement to dismiss or a responsive pleading that checks the authorized sufficiency of the allegations.
It’s disappointing to see the Ninth Circuit take the route of issuing an unpublished opinion. I don’t understand how the complexity of the case’s authorized query figures into the court docket’s resolution to take this route. This doesn’t fall into the class of a easy/easy case. Indeed, the court docket notes that the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling in Townsend (and the line-up of opinions) has “caused some confusion in this case.” I’m stunned nobody pressed for certification to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The weblog publish on the district court docket’s ruling is right here: “Amazon Can’t Force Arbitration of Minors’ Privacy Claims Based on Alexa Recordings–BF v. Amazon”. As famous by Eric there, this result’s dangerous from a contract regulation standpoint: “it would be weird to block the parents’ lawsuits per the contract but allow the parents to advance the exact same claims using their children as proxies.” On the opposite hand, from a privateness standpoint, it’s a thorn in Amazon’s aspect that might contribute to Amazon being extra cautious about its privateness practices.
Case quotation: B.F. v. Amazon, Case No. 20-35359 (ninth Cir. Apr. 23, 2021)