StubHub Denied 230 in Hannah Montana Ticket Scalping Case–Hill v. StubHub

By Eric Goldman

Hill v. StubHub, 07 CVS 11310 (N.C. Superior Ct. July 14, 2008) [note: I believe this is in NC’s special “business court”]

I don’t even have a tweener daughter (yet), but as a legal scholar, I am beginning to hate Hannah Montana due to the bogus legal developments that her concert tour is leaving in its wake. Ex A: the abysmal Ticketmaster v. RMG case, where the court bastardized Cyberlaw at least a half-dozen times to smack the ticket sniper. Ex B: the spate of silly state laws restricting the gaming of online ticket sellers’ algorithms, such as the Minnesota law.

Ex C is today’s case, Hill v. StubHub. Mrs. Hill bought 4 tickets to a Hannah Montana concert through StubHub at grossly inflated prices. Plaintiffs allege that they can’t tell if the tickets were sold by a StubHub user or by StubHub for its own account, but they allege that StubHub is the seller for purposes of designating StubHub as the ICP in the 230 analysis. Plaintiffs thus claim that StubHub violated the criminal NC anti-scalping law and that this violation supports a variety of civil causes of action. StubHub moved to dismiss per 230, implicitly on the basis that a user, and not StubHub, sold the tickets and set the price (although the opinion is too inscrutable to be sure about this). Because there is a factual dispute about who provided the allegedly illegally priced tickets, the court denies the 230 motion and allows the matter to be investigated through discovery.

While denying StubHub’s motion to dismiss may or may not be the right result, it’s a rare outcome for any plaintiff to defeat a 230 dismissal motion–which is often a good thing to prevent unnecessary and wasteful discovery in cases where the plaintiff has no chance anyway. After discovery in this case, let’s see if the judge got to the right result here.

HT: Mack Sperling, who is a colleague of plaintiff’s counsel and posts some source material in the case.