Hassell v. Bird

Since a court has the power to enter orders against non-parties to keep them from nullifying the effect of an injunction against a defendant, Yelp! could not successfully challenge a default judgment finding defendant’s negative reviews of plaintiff were defamatory and ordering Yelp!, a third party, to remove these reviews.  P sued D, claiming D had posted defamatory reviews of P on Yelp!  D defaulted, and P recovered a judgment finding the Yelp! postings were defamatory, enjoining D from publishing reviews of P on Yelp! or other websites, and ordering Yelp! to remove D’s defamatory reviews as well as any others D posted within 7 days of judgment.  P served the judgment on Yelp! which waited 115 days before moving to vacate the judgment.  Held:  (1) Yelp!’s motion to vacate was not authorized by CCP 663, since it was filed after expiration of the 15-day time limit for filing a 663 motion and after the 60-day limit on the court’s ruling on a 663 motion.  (2) Yelp!’s motion nevertheless was a proper non-statutory motion to vacate a void judgment, which gave Yelp! standing to appeal from denial of that motion.  (3) On appeal, however, Yelp! could attack only the order that it remove D’s postings, not the rest of the judgment since the rest of the judgment did not affect Yelp! adversely.  (4) A court has the power to enter orders against non-parties to keep them from nullifying the effect of an injunction against a defendant.  (5) The removal order did not violate Yelp!’s First Amendment rights since the reviews had been determined to be defamatory and since Yelp! served merely as the administrator of a forum that D used to post her defamatory reviews.  (5)  Insofar as the removal order kept Yelp! from posting additional reviews by D which had not yet been adjudicated to be defamatory, it was an overbroad prior restraint on free speech.  (6) The federal Communications Decency Act (47 USC 230) did not immunize Yelp! from the removal order since that order did not impose any liability on Yelp! but merely implements an injunction entered against D.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4 (Ruvolo, P.J.); June 7, 2016; 2016 WL 3163296

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