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Firm not liable for worker's e-mail threats: Court


SAN JOSE, Calif.--An employer whose employee sent threatening e-mail messages over the firm's computer is immune from liability as an interactive computer service provider, says a California state appellate court.

Thursday's unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the state appellate court in San Jose in Michelangelo Delfino et al. vs. Agilent Technologies Inc. upheld a lower court's decision.

The case was brought by Mr. Delfino and Mary E. Day, who had received threatening anonymous e-mail messages from Cameron Moore, who was then an employee of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Agilent. Mr. Moore's job was terminated by Agilent after he was arrested in connection with his conduct relating to Mr. Delfino, according to the opinion.

The plaintiffs contended that a lower court was incorrect when it ruled that as an Internet provider under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Agilent was immune from liability for Mr. Moore's cyber threats.

But the appellate 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," said the appellate decision.

"But several commentators have opined that an employer that provides its employees with Internet access through the company's internal computer system is among the class of parties potentially immune under the CDA....In light of the term's broad definition under the CDA we conclude that Agilent was a provider of interactive computer services."

The court also rejected several other claims made by plaintiffs against Agilent, including that it was vicariously liable for Mr. Moore's conduct.