It’s reasonable to believe that the U.S. Supreme Court only had one item to mark off on its to-do list for today, the last day of the term: make a decision on President Obama’s health care law. Given the gravity of the court’s ruling, the internet has been buzzing about little else since the decision was announced shortly after 10AM this morning. While proponents and opponents alike vociferously add their comments to the discussion currently being waged on the innernets, the monumental SCOTUS decision had some collateral side-effects to a few of the top tech companies who were left empty-handed as they awaited a decision on an unrelated case.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Yahoo, among companies from other industries, had filed a brief with the Supreme Court earlier this year related to a lawsuit filed by an Ohio woman against the title company, First American Financial Corp., that handled her house purchase due to allegations that it violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. She hadn’t actually incurred any direct harm from First Financial’s dealing with her bank but she staked her case on the premise that the company violated the federal law and, thus, she sued for monetary damages.
According to Kashmir Hill of Forbes, the appeal is what piqued the interest of the aforementioned tech companies because, given all of the legal matters involved with online privacy, the companies have a particular interest in what it calls “no-injury lawsuits,” which would include class action lawsuits.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Yahoo joined forces to file a brief [pdf] in the case urging the Supreme Court not to allow people to sue them for breaking federal laws when those people suffered no actual injury. Specific federal laws that folks tend to get these companies on are the Electronic Communications Act, the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act — all laws designed to protect the privacy of your communications.
While the companies had a vested, albiet self-preserving, interest in this case, they were all left empty handed today as the Supreme Court changed course and decided to not make a ruling on the First Financial case.
Meanwhile, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Yahoo will have to find another hardly related case to hitch themselves onto in order to try to preclude any possible lawsuits stemming from potential violations of privacy law. The collaboration of several big tech companies to try to attach themselves to this particular case about real estate dealings is somewhat puzzling because it really does require a detailed imagination to relate the two topics. At any rate, if these companies felt they could broadly interpet a SCOTUS decision that overturned the ruling against First Financial, there are likely many other lawsuits and appeals that the companies will likely try to poach for their own cause.