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White v. Square, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 7, 2018

Robert E. White, an individual, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Square, Inc., a Delaware corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

          D.C. No. 3:15-cv-04539-JST

          William McGrane, McGrane PC, San Francisco, California; Myron Moskovitz, Moskovitz Appellate Team, Piedmont, California; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Colleen Bal and Joshua A. Baskin, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati P.C., San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: Richard A. Paez and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges, and Eric N. Vitaliano, [*] District Judge.

         ORDER CERTIFYING QUESTIONS TO THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

         SUMMARY[**]

         Certified Question to California Supreme Court

         The panel certified the following questions of state law to the Supreme Court of California:

Does a plaintiff suffer discriminatory conduct, and thus have statutory standing to bring a claim under the Unruh Act, when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services, encounters terms and conditions that deny the plaintiff full and equal access to its services, and then departs without entering into an agreement with the service provider? Alternatively, does the plaintiff have to engage in some further interaction with the business and its website before the plaintiff will be deemed to have been denied full and equal treatment by the business?

          ORDER

         We ask the California Supreme Court to resolve an important open question of state law. To have statutory standing under the Unruh Act, a plaintiff must suffer discriminatory conduct. We need guidance, however, in applying the rules for statutory standing in the internet context, in order to determine whether a plaintiff has standing to sue an internet-based service provider after the plaintiff visits the business's website but refuses to accept terms of service that deny the plaintiff full and equal access. The California Supreme Court's guidance is especially necessary in light of current case law, which is divided on the question whether plaintiffs who present themselves to a business with an intent to use its services and encounter an exclusionary policy must nevertheless patronize the business in order to satisfy statutory standing. Accordingly, we certify the following questions:

Does a plaintiff suffer discriminatory conduct, and thus have statutory standing to bring a claim under the Unruh Act, when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services, encounters terms and conditions that deny the plaintiff full and equal access to its services, and then departs without entering into an agreement with the service provider? Alternatively, does the plaintiff have to engage in some further interaction with the business and its website before the plaintiff will be deemed to have been denied full and equal treatment by the business?

         Our phrasing of the questions should not restrict the Court's consideration of the issues involved. The Court may rephrase the questions as it sees fit in order to address the contentions of the parties. If the Court agrees to decide these questions, we agree to accept its decision. We recognize that the Court has a substantial caseload, and we submit these questions only because of their significance to claims brought under the Unruh Act.

         I

         Square, Inc. provides an internet-based service that allows individuals or merchants to "accept electronic payments without themselves directly opening up a merchant account with any Visa or MasterCard member bank." Square's seller agreement states that "[b]y creating a Square Account, you . . . confirm that you will not accept payments in connection with the following businesses or business activities: . . . (28) bankruptcy attorneys or collection agencies engaged in the collection of debt."[1] Square does not charge a subscription fee or admission fee, but charges a specified percentage of each transaction plus a ...


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