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Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. v. Victor

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

August 28, 2014


Page 1027

For Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., Plaintiff: Joseph C. Wilson, LEAD ATTORNEY, San Francisco, CA; Michelle Therese Duval, LEAD ATTORNEY, Joseph C. Wilson, V, Curiale Wilson LLP, San Francisco, CA; Richard James Curiale, LEAD ATTORNEY, Curiale, Dellaverson et al, San Francisco, CA; Patricia Jeanne Hill, Yash B. Dave, PRO HAC VICE, Smith Gambrell & Russell, LLP, Jacksonville, FL.

For Santiago Victor, Defendant, Counter-claimant: Beth Ann Kahn, Morris Polich Purdy, Los Angeles, CA; Kevin M Pollack, Kurt Alan Dreibholz, Morris Polich and Purdy LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

For Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., Counter-defendant: Patricia Jeanne Hill, Yash B. Dave, Smith Gambrell & Russell, LLP, Jacksonville, FL.

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SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, United States District Judge.

Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. (" Plaintiff" or " Sunbelt" ) filed the instant action against its former employee, Santiago Victor (" Defendant" or " Victor" ), alleging that he misappropriated trade secrets upon his termination. Victor has filed five counterclaims against Sunbelt, accusing it, inter alia, of violating the federal Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act (" SCA" ) by reviewing his text messages on the iPhone which Sunbelt had previously issued to him. The parties are presently before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Defendants Counterclaims. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion and dismisses Victor's counterclaims, with leave to amend. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). I. BACKGROUND

A. Relevant Facts

During the relevant time period, Victor worked as an outside sales representative for Sunbelt, an equipment rental company. Countercl. ¶ 11, Dkt. 34. In August 2013, Victor gave his two-week notice to Sunbelt, stating that he had taken a job with one of its competitors--Ahern Rentals (" Ahern" ). Id. ¶ 16. Upon learning of Victor's intent to leave the company, Sunbelt immediately dismissed him. Id.

During his time with Sunbelt, Victor was assigned a Sunbelt-owned iPhone (" Sunbelt iPhone" ) and a Sunbelt-owned iPad for both work and personal purposes. Id. ¶ ¶ 12-14. Thereafter, Victor " created and paid for a personal 'Apple account' that was linked to both devices." Id. ¶ 15. Victor returned the devices to Sunbelt after his separation. Id. ¶ ¶ 16, 18, 20.

Victor's new employer, Ahern, provided him a new iPhone (" Ahern iPhone" ). Id.

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¶ 19-20. At some point thereafter, Victor registered or linked his Ahern iPhone to the same personal Apple account he had previously used while at Sunbelt. Id. ¶ 19. This process " synced" Victor's Ahern iPhone with his personal Apple account. Id.

Several weeks later, when he received a new iPad from Ahern (" Ahern iPad" ), Victor linked the new iPad to his personal Apple account. Id. ¶ 20. In the process of registering the Ahern iPad, Victor discovered the telephone number associated with the Sunbelt iPhone was still linked to his personal Apple account. Id. Because Victor had failed to unlink the Sunbelt iPhone from his account, his " private electronic data and electronic messages," including text messages sent to and from his Ahern iPhone, also were transmitted to the Sunbelt iPhone which he had returned to Sunbelt. Id. ¶ 20, 21. Victor then deleted the Sunbelt number from his account " to ensure that his new Ahern issued Apple products were not in any way linked to Sunbelt." Id.

Victor claims that after his departure, Sunbelt " began actively investigating Victor's post-employment acts, conduct, and communications." Id. ¶ 21. In the course of such investigation, Sunbelt allegedly " invaded Victor's privacy rights by accessing, intercepting, monitoring, reviewing, storing and using Victor's post-employment private electronic data and electronic communications (including but not limited to text messages sent and received from Victor's Ahern, Rentals Inc. issued iPhone) without authority, permission, or consent." Id. (emphasis added). Victor further accuses Sunbelt of " intentionally accessing Victor's private electronic communications and data, without authorization, from facilities through which Victor's electronic communications were provided and stored (i.e., Victor's cellular phone provider's network which stores Victor's electronic communications, and or Apple's cloud based network where Victor's electronic communication pertaining to his Apple Account are processed and stored) and where such services and communications were restricted to access by Victor, which Sunbelt obtained through improper means." Id. ¶ 23 (emphasis added). No particular facts are alleged to support these assertions.

B. Procedural History

On September 12, 2013, Sunbelt filed a complaint against Victor in this Court alleging four state law causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) misappropriation of trade secrets; (3) unfair competition; and (4) breach of duty of loyalty. Dkt. 1. Victor then filed an Answer, and later amended an Answer and Counterclaim. The gist of the Counterclaim is that Sunbelt improperly read the text messages that were inadvertently transmitted to his Sunbelt iPhone. He alleges claims for violations of: (1) the Wiretap Act; (2) the SCA; (3) California Penal Code § 502 et seq.; (4) California Penal Code § 630 et seq.; and (5) his right to privacy. See Countercl. ¶ 24. Each of these claims is based on the same set of facts--Sunbelt's purported interception, acquisition and use of Victor's electronic communications (i.e., text messages) sent to and from his Ahern iPhone. Sunbelt now moves to dismiss all counterclaims. This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for adjudication.

II. Legal Standard

Pleadings in federal court actions are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires only " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 12(b)(6) " tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint may be

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dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for either failure to state a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). " [C]ourts must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other sources courts ordinarily examine when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007). The court is to " accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Outdoor Media Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont, 506 F.3d 895, 899-900 (9th Cir. 2007).

To survive a motion to dismiss, " a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The complaint must afford the defendants with " fair notice" of the claims against them, and the grounds upon which the claims are based. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002). " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When a complaint or claim is dismissed, " [l]eave to amend should be granted unless the district ...

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