Young v. Hilton: 9th Cir. Reverses Dismissal of California Recording Case

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On March 20, 2014, the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a putative class action against Hilton, based on violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”) by recording incoming customer service phone calls without customers’ consent. Young v. Hilton Worldwide, Inc. and Hilton Reservations Worldwide, LLC, No. 12-56189 (9th Cir. March 20, 2014) (slip opinion available here).

The plaintiff alleged that defendant violated two provisions of CIPA; Section 632, which generally prohibits the eavesdropping and recording of “confidential communications” on landlines without all parties’ consent, and Section 632.7, which proscribes the eavesdropping on or recording of a communication on cell or cordless phones without all parties’ consent. The district court had dismissed the action, rubberstamping the defendant’s proposed dismissal order, and holding that the complaint failed to allege that the recorded communications were confidential and subject to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of the Section 632.7 claim, but not the Section 632 claim.

The Ninth Circuit found that the “reasonable expectation of privacy” requirement applied only to plaintiff’s section 632 claim regarding landlines, but not to plaintiff’s section 632.7 claim regarding cell or cordless phones: “The California Supreme Court has unequivocally held that no such [confidential communication] requirement applies to Section 632.7 . . . . The district court’s failure to so recognize was reversible error.” Slip op. at 2. Holding that Section 632.7 prohibits recording of calls made from cell and cordless phones regardless of whether a communication is initiated with a reasonable expectation of privacy, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the case.

Dissenting Judge Motz from the District of Maryland, sitting by designation, wrote that he would have vacated the district court’s entire decision and remanded the case to the district court for full briefing on CIPA’s scope.