Intel v. Hamidi

Dispute

Defendant, a former employee of Plaintiff, persistently sent emails critical of Plaintiff to all Plaintiff employees using Plaintiff’s intranet. After repeated requests to Defendant to cease and desist, Plaintiff sued, alleging trespass to chattels.

Questions of law

Is actual injury a requirement for trespass to chattels? Can frustration with the content of a communication give rise to a claim for trespass to chattels via the mode of the communication? What is the impact of intent?

Conclusion

In a lengthy opinion, the California Supreme Court held that it would be an unacceptable expansion of tort liability to expand trespass to chattels to include the use, however unwelcome, of a publicly-accessible computer intranet which caused no injury to the system. The example was made to mailboxes or telephones — the content of communication in no way injures the operation of the mailbox or the telephone equipment.

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