eBay’s Venue Selection Clause Upheld in Missouri–Earll v. eBay
By Eric Goldman
Earll v. eBay, 2011 WL 497781 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2011). The initial complaint.
Earll, who is deaf, sued eBay for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the CA state law analogue. Her complaint relates to the fact that eBay telephonically confirms sellers, which poses a problem for deaf sellers. As part of the signup process, Earll clicked on eBay’s user agreement, which included eBay’s standard venue selection clause specifying its home court as the mandatory venue for lawsuits. eBay invoked the clause against Earll to move the suit there.
Earll tries to knock out the user agreement by arguing that it was fatally defective for not disclosing the telephonic verification requirement. The court deems that omission immaterial.
Earll then argues that the venue selection clause covers only a subset of claims a plaintiff might bring, and therefore it does not apply to her civil rights claim. The court rejects the argument because her claims “relate to her inability to sell items on eBay’s website.”
Earll then argues that some courts have rejected venue transfers in disability-related cases where a transfer would prevent disabled people from litigating, and thus undermining the law’s policy objectives. Acknowledging that, the court says that Earll never indicated that she would abandon her claim if it was transferred, and California courts are just as capable of adjudicating ADA claims as the Missouri courts.
Having rejected Earll’s arguments, the court orders the venue transfer. This is a nice win for eBay on two fronts. First, it’s yet another case upholding its venue selection clause. I just blogged on a similarly favorable case (Evans v. Linden Research) where Second Life, invoking a clause copied from eBay’s, also successfully invoked the clause. In light of the confusion we had after Comb v. PayPal, it’s nice to see more predictable contract interpretation results.
Second, ADA claims are very dangerous for online sites. See, e.g., the NFB v. Target case. Having the case in eBay’s home court surely helps eBay’s odds of success in a risky case.
Related blog posts:
* Note about Tricome v. eBay
* Note about Universal Grading Service v. eBay