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V. Trespass to Chattels: The Limits of Self-Help

Lawsuits are expensive and unwieldy. They take a lot of time – years, even. They are emotionally draining, sometimes devastating – even for winners. And a court and its enforcement mechanisms may not be available in an exigently-unfolding situation. In light of this, the law might contemplate that private actors faced with perceived wrongdoing might be given license to take matters into their own hands. Recognizing the defense of self-defense in battery is one way that the law understands that it can be better, or at least acceptable, for people to help themselves. What about less dire situations than defense of life or bodily integrity? Is it OK to chase after someone who has stolen something? To set a trap on one’s own property to deter or incapacitate wrongdoers, especially if the trap is only sprung against people who are manifestly in a place where they have no permission to be? How much should barriers to effective legal enforcement grant license to individual action, even vigilantism?

This section’s cases look at these questions through some classic formulations – a spring-gun, for example – and through some more recent ones: the problems arising from spam. In the latter case, we look both at how this new and vexing phenomenon might be worked into the canon of tort, in particular, trespass to chattel, and also how the law should view acts of self-help taken against spammers.

  • 1 Glidden v. Szybiak--"The Dog Ear Puller"

    To what extent should the law protect an owner from minimal interference with his or her property?

    1

    95 N.H. 318; 63 A.2d 233


    ELAINE GLIDDEN, by her mother and next friend PRISCILLA GLIDDEN
    v.
    LOUIS SZYBIAK, LOUISE SZYBIAK AND JANE SZYBIAK.


    No. 3777

    SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

    January 5, 1949, Decided
    2

    McLane, Davis, Carleton & Graf, of Manchester and Stanley M. Brown, of Manchester, for defendants.

    3

    FACTS:

    4

    The plaintiff Elaine Glidden, who was four years old at the time of the occurrence here involved, left her home about noon on the day of her injury, to go to a neighborhood store for candy. On the porch of the store Elaine encountered a dog named Toby and engaged in play with him. She eventually climbed on his back and pulled his ears. The dog snapped at her and bit her nose, inflicting wounds for which a recovery is sought. She was treated by two physicians and a successful result obtained. Such scars as were left are "in no way disfiguring but discernible on close view."

    6

    The dog Toby was owned by the defendant Jane Szybiak, an unmarried daughter of the other two defendants, 26 years of age at the time of the trial, living with her parents. The Court found that the defendant Louise Szybiak, although she exercised some care for the dog Toby, "was not the owner or keeper of the dog." The defendant Louis Szybiak, was found to be the head of the family at the time of the injury to Elaine Glidden. "He tolerated and permitted the dog to be in his household and to roam at will throughout the house" and it was further found that "Toby was in possession of the defendant Louis, within the meaning of the statute." To this finding the defendant excepted as being contrary to the evidence and unsupported by the evidence. The defendants also excepted to the denial of their motions for judgment at the close of the evidence.

    7

    The Court also made the following finding: "Elaine is found to have been of such tender years as to be incapable of being guilty of contributory negligence in her conduct toward the dog, Toby. If she was too young to be guilty of negligence, she cannot be found to have been guilty of a trespass or a tort at the time she received her injury." To this finding the defendants duly excepted.

    8

    BRANCH, Chief Justice.

    9

    The statute under which these actions were brought reads as follows: ‘23. Liability of owner. Any person to whom or to whose property damage may be occasioned by a dog not owned or kept by him shall be entitled to recover such damage of the person who owns or keeps the dog, or has it in possession, unless the damage was occasioned to him while he was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort.’

    10

    It is the contention of the defendants that the plaintiff Elaine was engaged in the commission of a trespass at the time of her injury and is, therefore, barred from recovery under the statute. The law in regard to a trespass to chattels is thus summarized in the Restatement of the Law of Torts, s. 218: ‘One who without consensual or other privilege to do so, uses or otherwise intentionally intermeddles with a chattel which is in possession of another is liable for a trespass to such person if, (a) the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality or value, or (b) the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or (c) bodily harm is thereby caused to the possessor or harm is caused to some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.’ In comment (f) to clauses (a) and (b), it is pointed out that ‘the interest of a possessor of a chattel in its inviolability, unlike the similar interest of a possessor of land, is not given legal protection by an action for nominal damages for harmless intermeddlings with the chattel. Sufficient legal protection of the possessor's interest in the mere inviolability of his chattel is afforded by his privilege to use reasonable force to protect his possession against even harmless interference.’

    11

    No claim was advanced at the trial that the dog Toby was in any way injured by the conduct of the plaintiff Elaine. Consequently she could not be held liable for a trespass to the dog. Consequently her conduct did not constitute a trespass which will prevent her recovery under the statute here invoked.

    12

    The finding that ‘Toby was in possession of the defendant Louis within the meaning of the statute’ must be set aside. The evidence was uncontradicted that the dog belonged to the defendant Jane, who testified as follows:
    ‘Q. Did your father object to having Toby in the house? A. Yes, he did.
    ‘Q. Could he have thrown Toby out of the house? A. I suppose so.
    ‘Q. Did he do it? A. No, he didn't.
    ‘Q. So he allowed Toby to live there? A. He told me I would be fully responsible for the dog, take care of him.’

    13

    The evidence was also uncontradicted that Jane took care of the dog when she left for work in the morning and that thereafter he was in the care of her mother and that defendant Louis had nothing whatever to do with the care of the dog. Under these circumstances it must be held that the defendant Louis was not the possessor of the dog Toby and therefore as to him the motion for judgment at the close of the evidence should have been granted. Possessor as used in the statute implies the exercise of care, custody or control of the dog by one who though not the owner assumes to act in his stead. Here the actual care, custody and control of the dog was in the owner Jane Szybiak, who was of adult age, and she alone was responsible for the conduct of the animal. The statute furnishes no justification for imposing liability on the defendant Louis.

    14

    Judgment on the verdict against the defendant Jane.
    Judgment for the defendant Louis.
    In the judgment against the defendant Jane all concurred.
    In the judgment for the defendant Louis, DUNCAN, J., concurred in the result; the others concurred.

  • 2 Katko v. Briney--"The Spring-Gun Case"

    Should an individual be allowed to use force to protect his or her real property? Should it matter if the property is uninhabited?

    2

    Page 657

    5
    183 N.W.2d 657

    8
    47 A.L.R.3d 624

    11
    Marvin KATKO, Appellee,
    v.
    Edward BRINEY and Bertha L. Briney, Appellants.

    14
    No. 54169.

    17
    Supreme Court of Iowa.

    20
    Feb. 9, 1971.
    22

            Bruce Palmer and H. S. Life, Oskaloosa, for appellants.

    24

            Garold Heslinga, Oskaloosa, for appellee.

    26

            MOORE, Chief Justice.

    28

            The primary issue presented here is whether an owner may protect personal property in an unoccupied boarded-up farm house against trespassers and thieves by a spring gun capable of inflicting death or serious injury.

    30

            We are not here concerned with a man's right to protect his home and members of his family. Defendants' home was several miles from the scene of the incident to which we refer infra.

    32

    Page 658

    34

            Plaintiff's action is for damages resulting from serious injury caused by a shot from a 20-gauge spring shotgun set by defendants in a bedroom of an old farm house which had been uninhabited for several years. Plaintiff and his companion, Marvin McDonough, had broken and entered the house to find and steal old bottles and dated fruit jars which they considered antiques.

    36

            At defendants' request plaintiff's action was tried to a jury consisting of residents of the community where defendants' property was located. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff and against defendants for $20,000 actual and $10,000 punitive damages.

    38

            After careful consideration of defendants' motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial, the experienced and capable trial judge overruled them and entered judgment on the verdict. Thus we have this appeal by defendants.

    40

            I. In this action our review of the record as made by the parties in the lower court is for the correction of errors at law. We do not review actions at law de novo. Rule 334, Rules of Civil Procedure. Findings of fact by the jury are binding upon this court if supported by substantial evidence. Rule 344(f), par. 1, R.C.P.

    42

            II. Most of the facts are not disputed. In 1957 defendant Bertha L. Briney inherited her parents' farm land in Mahaska and Monroe Counties. Included was an 80-acre tract in southwest Mahaska County where her grandparents and parents had lived. No one occupied the house thereafter. Her husband, Edward, attempted to care for the land. He kept no farm machinery thereon. The outbuildings became dilapidated.

    44

            For about 10 years, 1957 to 1967, there occurred a series of trespassing and housebreaking events with loss of some household items, the breaking of windows and 'messing up of the property in general'. The latest occurred June 8, 1967, prior to the event on July 16, 1967 herein involved.

    46

            Defendants through the years boarded up the windows and doors in an attempt to stop the intrusions. They had posted 'no trespass' signs on the land several years before 1967. The nearest one was 35 feet from the house. On June 11, 1967 defendants set 'a shotgun trap' in the north bedroom. After Mr. Briney cleaned and oiled his 20-gauge shotgun, the power of which he was well aware, defendants took it to the old house where they secured it to an iron bed with the barrel pointed at the bedroom door. It was rigged with wire from the doorknob to the gun's trigger so it would fire when the door was opened. Briney first pointed the gun so an intruder would be hit in the stomach but at Mrs Briney's suggestion it was lowered to hit the legs. He admitted he did so 'because I was mad and tired of being tormented' but 'he did not intend to injure anyone'. He gave to explanation of why he used a loaded shell and set it to hit a person already in the house. Tin was nailed over the bedroom window. The spring gun could not be seen from the outside. No warning of its presence was posted.

    48

            Plaintiff lived with his wife and worked regularly as a gasoline station attendant in Eddyville, seven miles from the old house. He had observed it for several years while hunting in the area and considered it as being abandoned. He knew it had long been uninhabited. In 1967 the area around the house was covered with high weeds. Prior to July 16, 1967 plaintiff and McDonough had been to the premises and found several old bottles and fruit jars which they took and added to their collection of antiques. On the latter date about 9:30 p.m. they made a second trip to the Briney property. They entered the old house by removing a board from a porch window which was without glass. While McDonough was looking around the kitchen area plaintiff went to another part of the house. As he started to open the north bedroom door the shotgun went off striking him in the right leg above the ankle bone. Much of his leg, including part of the tibia, was blown away. Only by McDonough's

    50

    Page 659

    52

            Plaintiff's doctor testified he seriously considered amputation but eventually the healing process was successful. Some weeks after his release from the hospital plaintiff returned to work on crutches. He was required to keep the injured leg in a cast for approximately a year and wear a special brace for another year. He continued to suffer pain during this period.

    54

            There was undenied medical testimony plaintiff had a permanent deformity, a loss of tissue, and a shortening of the leg.

    56

            The record discloses plaintiff to trial time had incurred $710 medical expense, $2056.85 for hospital service, $61.80 for orthopedic service and $750 as loss of earnings. In addition thereto the trial court submitted to the jury the question of damages for pain and suffering and for future disability.

    58

            III. Plaintiff testified he knew he had no right to break and enter the house with intent to steal bottles and fruit jars therefrom. He further testified he had entered a plea of guilty to larceny in the nighttime of property of less than $20 value from a private building. He stated he had been fined $50 and costs and paroled during good behavior from a 60-day jail sentence. Other than minor traffic charges this was plaintiff's first brush with the law. On this civil case appeal it is not our prerogative to review the disposition made of the criminal charge against him.

    60

            IV. The main thrust of defendants' defense in the trial court and on this appeal is that 'the law permits use of a spring gun in a dwelling or warehouse for the purpose of preventing the unlawful entry of a burglar or thief'. They repeated this contention in their exceptions to the trial court's instructions 2, 5 and 6. They took no exception to the trial court's statement of the issues or to other instructions.

    62

            In the statement of issues the trial court stated plaintiff and his companion committed a felony when they broke and entered defendants' house. In instruction 2 the court referred to the early case history of the use of spring guns and stated under the law their use was prohibited except to prevent the commission of felonies of violence and where human life is in danger. The instruction included a statement breaking and entering is not a felony of violence.

    64

            Instruction 5 stated: 'You are hereby instructed that one may use reasonable force in the protection of his property, but such right is subject to the qualification that one may not use such means of force as will take human life or inflict great bodily injury. Such is the rule even though the injured party is a trespasser and is in violation of the law himself.'

    66

            Instruction 6 state: 'An owner of premises is prohibited from willfully or intentionally injuring a trespasser by means of force that either takes life or inflicts great bodily injury; and therefore a person owning a premise is prohibited from setting out 'spring guns' and like dangerous devices which will likely take life or inflict great bodily injury, for the purpose of harming trespassers. The fact that the trespasser may be acting in violation of the law does not change the rule. The only time when such conduct of setting a 'spring gun' or a like dangerous device is justified would be when the trespasser was committing a felony of violence or a felony punishable by death, or where the trespasser was endangering human life by his act.'

    68

            Instruction 7, to which defendants made no objection or exception, stated: 'To entitle the plaintiff to recover for compensatory damages, the burden of proof is upon him to establish by a preponderance of the evidence each and all of the following propositions:

    70

            '1. That defendants erected a shotgun trap in a vacant house on land owned by defendant,

    72

    Page 660

    74

            '2. That the force used by defendants was in excess of that force reasonably necessary and which persons are entitled to use in the protection of their property.

    76

            '3. That plaintiff was injured and damaged and the amount thereof.

    78

            '4. That plaintiff's injuries and damages resulted directly from the discharge of the shotgun trap which was set and used by defendants.'

    80

            The overwhelming weight of authority, both textbook and case law, supports the trial court's statement of the applicable principles of law.

    82

            Prosser on Torts, Third Edition, pages 116--118, states:

    84

            '* * * the law has always placed a higher value upon human safety than upon mere rights in property, it is the accepted rule that there is no privilege to use any force calculated to cause death or serious bodily injury to repel the threat to land or chattels, unless there is also such a threat to the defendant's personal safety as to justify a self-defense. * * * spring guns and other mankilling devices are not justifiable against a mere trespasser, or even a petty thief. They are privileged only against those upon whom the landowner, if he were present in person would be free to inflict injury of the same kind.'

    86

            Restatement of Torts, section 85, page 180, states: 'The value of human life and limb, not only to the individual concerned but also to society, so outweights the interest of a possessor of land in excluding from it those whom he is not willing to admit thereto that a possessor of land has, as is stated in § 79, no privilege to use force intended or likely to cause death or serious harm against another whom the possessor sees about to enter his premises or meddle with his chattel, unless the intrusion threatens death or serious bodily harm to the occupiers or users of the premises. * * * A possessor of land cannot do indirectly and by a mechanical device that which, were he present, he could not do immediately and in person. Therefore, he cannot gain a privilege to install, for the purpose of protecting his land from intrusions harmless to the lives and limbs of the occupiers or users of it, a mechanical device whose only purpose is to inflict death or serious harm upon such as may intrude, by giving notice of his intention to inflict, by mechanical means and indirectly, harm which he could not, even after request, inflict directly were he present.'

    88

            In Volume 2, Harper and James, The Law of Torts, section 27.3, pages 1440, 1441, this is found: 'The possessor of land may not arrange his premises intentionally so as to cause death or serious bodily harm to a trespasser. The possessor may of course take some steps to repel a trespass. If he is present he may use force to do so, buy only that amount which is reasonably necessary to effect the repulse. Moreover if the trespass threatens harm to property only--even a theft of property--the possessor would not be privileged to use deadly force, he may not arrange his premises so that such force will be inflicted by mechanical means. If he does, he will be liable even to a thief who is injured by such device.'

    90

            Similar statements are found in 38 Am.Jur., Negligence, section 114, pages 776, 777, and 65 C.J.S. Negligence § 62(23), pages 678,679; Anno. 44 A.L.R.2d 383, entitled 'Trap to protect property'.

    92

            In Hooker v. Miller, 37 Iowa 613, we held defendant vineyard owner liable for damages resulting from a spring gun shot although plaintiff was a trespasser and there to steal grapes. At pages 614, 615, this statement is made: 'This court has held that a mere trespass against property other than a dwelling is not a sufficient justification to authorize the use of a deadly

    94

    Page 661

    96

            The facts in Allison v. Fiscus, 156 Ohio 120, 110 N.E.2d 237, 44 A.L.R.2d 369, decided in 1951, are very similar to the case at bar. There plaintiff's right to damages was recognized for injuries received when he feloniously broke a door latch and started to enter defendant's warehouse with intent to steal. As he entered a trap of two sticks of dynamite buried under the doorway by defendant owner was set off and plaintiff seriously injured. The court held the question whether a particular trap was justified as a use of reasonable and necessary force against a trespasser engaged in the commission of a felony should have been submitted to the jury. The Ohio Supreme Court recognized plaintiff's right to recover punitive or exemplary damages in addition to compensatory damages.

    98

            In Starkey v. Dameron, 96 Colo. 459, 45 P.2d 172, plaintiff was allowed to recover compensatory and punitive damages for injuries received from a spring gun which defendant filling station operator had concealed in an automatic gasoline pump as protection against thieves.

    100

            In Wilder v. Gardner, 39 Ga.App. 608, 147 S.E. 911, judgment for plaintiff for injuries received from a spring gun which defendant had set, the court said: 'A person in control of premises may be responsible even to a trespasser for injuries caused by pitfalls, mantraps, or other like contrivances so dangerous in character as to imply a disregard of consequences or a willingness to inflict injury.'

    102

            In Phelps v. Hamlett, Tex.Civ.App., 207 S.W. 425, defendant rigged a bomb inside his outdoor theater so that if anyone came through the door the bomb would explode. The court reversed plaintiff's recovery because of an incorrect instruction but at page 426 said: 'While the law authorizes an owner to protect his property by such reasonable means as he may find to be necessary, yet considerations of humanity preclude him from setting out, even on his own property, traps and devices dangerous to the life and limb of those whose appearance and presence may be reasonably anticipated, even though they may be trespassers.'

    104

            In United Zinc & Chemical Co. v. Britt, 258 U.S. 268, 275, 42 S.Ct. 299, 66 L.Ed. 615, 617, the court states: 'The liability for spring guns and mantraps arises from the fact that he defendant has * * * expected the trespasser and prepared an injury that is no more more justified than if he had held the gun and fired it.'

    106

            In addition to civil liability many jurisdictions hold a land owner criminally liable for serious injuries or homicide caused by spring guns or other set devices. See State v. Childers, 133 Ohio 508, 14 N.E.2d 767 (melon thief shot by spring gun); Pierce v. Commonwealth, 135 Va. 635, 115 S.E. 686 (policeman killed by spring gun when he opened unlocked front door of defendant's shoe repair shop); State v. Marfaudille, 48 Wash. 117, 92 P. 939 (murder conviction for death from spring gun set in a trunk); State v. Beckham, 306 Mo. 566, 267 S.W. 817 (boy killed by spring gun attached to window of defendant's chili stand); State v. Green, 118 S.C. 279, 110 S.E. 145, 19 A.L.R. 1431 (intruder shot by spring gun when he broke and entered vacant house. Manslaughter conviction of owner-affirmed); State v. Barr, 11 Wash. 481, 39 P. 1080 (murder conviction affirmed for death of an intruder into a boarded up cabin in which owner had set a spring gun).

    108

            In Wisconsin, Oregon and England the use of spring guns and similar devices is specifically made unlawful by statute. 44 A.L.R., section 3, pages 386, 388.

    110

    Page 662

    112

            The legal principles stated by the trial court in instructions 2, 5 and 6 are well established and supported by the authorities cited and quoted supra. There is no merit in defendants' objections and exceptions thereto. Defendants' various motions based on the same reasons stated in exceptions to instructions were properly overruled.

    114

            V. Plaintiff's claim and the jury's allowance of punitive damages, under the trial court's instructions relating thereto, were not at any time or in any manner challenged by defendants in the trial court as not allowable. We therefore are not presented with the problem of whether the $10,000 aware should be allowed to stand.

    116

            We express no opinion as to whether punitive damages are allowable in this type of case. If defendants' attorneys wanted that issue decided it was their duty to raise it in the trial court.

    118

            The rule is well established that we will not consider a contention not raised in the trial court. In other words we are a court of review and will not consider a contention raised for the first time in this court. Ke-Wash Company v. Stauffer Chemical Company, Iowa, 177 N.W.2d 5, 9; In re Adoption of Moriarty, 260 Iowa 1279, 1288, 152 N.W.2d 218, 223; Verschoor v. Miller, 259 Iowa 170, 176, 143 N.W.2d 385, 389; Mundy v. Olds, 254 Iowa 1095, 1100, 120 N.W.2d 469, 472; Bryan v. Iowa State Highway Commission, 251 Iowa 1093, 1096, 104 N.W.2d 562, 563, and citations.

    120

            In our most recent reference to the rule we say in Cole v. City of Osceola, Iowa, 179 N.W.2d 524, 527: 'Of course, questions not presented to and not passed upon by the trial court cannot be raised or reviewed on appeal.'

    122

            Under our law punitive damages are not allowed as a matter of right. Sebastian v. Wood, 246 Iowa 94, 100, 101, 66 N.W.2d 841, 844. When malice is shown or when a defendant acted with wanton and reckless disregard of the rights of others, punitive damages may be allowed as punishment to the defendant and as a deterrent to others. Although not meant to compensate a plaintiff, the result is to increase his recovery. He is the fortuitous beneficiary of such an award simply because there is no one else to receive it.

    124

            The jury's findings of fact including a finding defendants acted with malice and with wanton and reckless disregard, as required for an allowance of punitive or exemplary damages, are supported by substantial evidence. We are bound thereby.

    126

            This opinion is not to be taken or construed as authority that the allowance of punitive damages is or is not proper under circumstances such as exist here. We hold only that question of law not having been properly raised cannot in this case be resolved.

    128

            Study and careful consideration of defendants' contentions on appeal reveal no reversible error.

    130

            Affirmed.

    132

            All Justices concur except LARSON, J., who dissents.

    134

            LARSON, Justice.

    136

            I respectfully dissent, first, because the majority wrongfully assumes that by installing a spring gun in the bedroom of their unoccupied house the defendants intended to shoot any intruder who attempted to enter the room. Under the record presented here, that was a fact question. Unless it is held that there property owners are liable for any injury to a intruder from such a device regardless of the intent with which it is installed, liability under these pleadings must rest upon two definite issues of fact, i.e., did the defendants intend to shoot the invader, and if so, did they employ unnecessary and unreasonable force against him?

    138

            It is my feeling that the majority oversimplifies the impact of this case on the law, not only in this but other jurisdictions,

    140

    Page 663

    142

            There being no statutory provisions governing the right of an owner to defend his property by the use of a spring gun or other like device, or of a criminal invader to recover punitive damages when injured by such an instrumentality while breaking into the building of another, our interest and attention are directed to what should be the court determination of public policy in these matters. On both issues we are faced with a case of first impression. We should accept the task and clearly establish the law in this jurisdiction hereafter. I would hold there is no absolute liability for injury to a criminal intruder by setting up such a device on his property, and unless done with an intent to kill or seriously injure the intruder, I would absolve the owner from liability other than for negligence. I would also hold the court had no jurisdiction to allow punitive damages when the intruder was engaged in a serious criminal offense such as breaking and entering with intent to steal.

    144

            It appears to me that the learned trial court was and the majority is now confused as to the basis of liability under the circumstances revealed. Certainly, the trial court's instructions did nothing to clarify the law in this jurisdiction for the jury. Timely objections to Instructions Nos. 2, 5 and 6 were made by the defendants, and thereafter the court should have been aware of the questions of liability left unresolved, i.e., whether in this jurisdiction we by judicial declaration bar the use in an unoccupied building of spring guns or other devices capable of inflicting serious injury or death on an intruder regardless of the intent with which they are installed, or whether such an intent is a vital element which must be proven in order to establish liability for an injury inflicted upon a criminal invader.

    146

            Although the court told the jury the plaintiff had the burden to prove 'That the force used by defendants was in excess of that force reasonably necessary and which persons are entitled to use in the protection of their property', it utterly failed to tell the jury it could find the installation was not made with the intent or purpose of striking or injuring the plaintiff. There was considerable evidence to that effect. As I shall point out, both defendants stated the installation was made for the purpose of scaring or frightening away any intruder, not to seriously injure him. It may be that the evidence would support a finding of an intent to injure the intruder, but obviously that important issue was never adequately or clearly submitted to the jury.

    148

            Unless, then, we hold for the first time that liability for death or injury in such cases is absolute, the matter should be remanded for a jury determination of defendant's intent in installing the device under instructions usually given to a jury on the issue of intent.

    150

            I personally have no objection to this court's determination of the public policy of this state in such a case to ban the use of such devices in All instances where there is no intruder threat to human life or safety, but I do say we have never done so except in the case of a mere trespasser in a vineyard. Hooker v. Miller, 37 Iowa 613 (1873). To that extent, then, this is a case of first impression, and in any opinion we should make the law in this jurisdiction crystal clear. Although the legislature could pronounce this policy, as it has in some states, since we have entered this area of the law by the Hooker decision, I believe it proper for us to declare the applicable law in cases such as this for the guidance of the bench and bar hereafter. The majority opinion utterly fails in this regard. It fails to recognize the problem where such a device is installed in a building housing valuable property to ward off criminal intruders, and to clearly place and burden necessary to establish liability.

    152

            My second reason for this dissent is the allowance of an award of punitive damages herein. Plaintiff claimed a remedy which

    154

    Page 664

    156

            I do not wish to criticize, but believe the factual statement of the majority fails to give a true perspective of the relative facts and issues to be considered.

    158

            Plaintiff's petition at law asking damages alleged willful and malicious setting of a trap or device for the purpose of killing or inflicting great bodily harm upon any trespasser on defendants' property. We are, therefore, factually concerned with how such force may be properly applied by the property owner and whether his intent is relevant to liability. Negligent installation of a dangerous device to frighten and ward off an intruder or thief is not alleged, so unless the proof submitted was sufficient to establish a willful setting of the trap with a purpose of killing or seriously injuring the intruder, no recovery could be had. If the evidence submitted was such that a jury could find defendants had willfully set the spring gun with a purpose to seriously injure the plaintiff intruder, unless they were privileged under the law to set the gun under these circumstances, liability for the injury would follow.

    160

            From the record we learn that plaintiff and a companion made a second trip to a furnished but uninhabited house on defendants' farmland in Mahaska County on the night of July 16, 1967. They tore a plank from a porch window, entered the house with an intent to steal articles therein, and in search of desired articles plaintiff came to a closed bedroom door where he removed a chair braced under the door knob and pulled the door toward him. This action triggered a single shot 20-gauge shotgun which defendants had wired to the bottom of a bed. The blast went through the door and struck plaintiff two or three inches above the right ankle.

    162

            The Mahaska County Grand Jury issued a true bill charging plaintiff with breaking and entering in the nighttime, but the county attorney accepted a plea of guilty to the lesser offense of larceny in the nighttime of property of a value of less than $20 and did not press the greater charge.

    164

            At the trial of this case Mr. Briney, one of the defendants, testified that the house where plaintiff was injured had been the home of Mrs. Briney's parents. He said the furniture and other possessions left there were of considerable value and they had tried to preserve them and enjoy them for frequent visits by Mrs. Briney. It appeared this unoccupied house had been broken into repeatedly during the past ten-years and, as a result, Mr. Briney said 'things were pretty well torn up, a lot of things taken.' To prevent these intrusions the Brineys nailed the doors and some windows shut and boarded up others. Prior to this time Mr. Briney testified he had locked the doors, posted seven no trespassing signs on the premises, and complained to the sheriffs of two counties on numerous occasions. Mr. Briney further testified that when all these efforts were futile and the vandalism continued, he placed a 20-guage shotgun in a bedroom and wired it so that it would shoot downward and toward the door if anyone opened it. He said he first aimed it straight at the door but later, at his wife's suggestion, reconsidered the aim and pointed the gun down in a way he thought would only scare

    166

    Page 665

    168

            Plaintiff testified he knew the house was unoccupied and admitted breaking into it in the nighttime without lawful reason or excuse. He claimed he and his companion were seeking old bottles and dated fruit jars. He also admitted breaking in on one prior occasion and stated the reason for the return visit was that 'we decided we would go out to this place again and see if there was something we missed while we was out there the first time.' An old organ fascinated plaintiff. Arriving this second time, they found that the window by which they had entered before was now a 'solid mass of boards' and walked around the house until they found the porch window which offered less resistance. Plaintiff said they crawled through this window. While searching the house he came to the bedroom door and pulled it open, thus triggering the gun that delivered a charge which struck him in the leg.

    170

            Plaintiff's doctor testified that he treated the shotgun wound on the night it was sustained and for some period thereafter. The healing process was successful and plaintiff was released after 40 days in the hospital. There was medical testimony that plaintiff had a permanent deformity, a loss of tissue, and a shortening of the leg.

    172

            That plaintiff suffered a grievous wound is not denied, and that it constituted a serious bodily injury cannot be contradicted.

    174

            As previously indicated, this appeal presents two vital questions which are as novel as they are difficult. They are, (1) is the owner of a building in which are kept household furniture, appliances, and valuables, but not occupied by a person or persons, liable in damages to an intruder who in the nighttime broke into and entered the building with the intent to steal and was shot and seriously injured by a spring gun allegedly set by the owner to frighten intruders from his property, and (2) if he is liable for compensatory damages, is this a proper case for the allowance of exemplary or punitive damages?

    176

            The trial court overruled all objections to the instructions and denied defendants' motion for a new trial. Thus, the first question to be resolved is the status of the law in this jurisdiction as to the means of force a property owner is privileged to use to repel (1) a mere trespasser, (2) a criminal invader, thief or burglar, where he presents no threat to human life or safety, and (3) an intruder or criminal breaking and entering a dwelling which poses a threat to human life and safety. Overlooked by the majority is the vital problem relating to the relevancy and importance of the owner's intent in placing the device.

    178

            I have been unable to find a case exactly like the case at bar, although there have been many cases which consider liability to a mere trespasser for injuries incurred by a spring gun or other dangerous instruments set to protect against intrusion and theft. True, some of these cases seem to turn on the negligence of the party setting the trap and an absence of adequate warning thereof, but most of them involve an alleged intentional tort. It is also true some hold as a matter of public policy there is liability for any injury following the setting of a device which is intended to kill or inflict great bodily injury on one coming on the owner's property without permission, unless the invader poses a threat to human life, and this is so even though there is no statutory prohibition against the setting of spring guns in the jurisdiction.

    180

            Since our decision in Hooker v. Miller, supra, we have recognized in this state the doctrine that the owner of a primise is liable in damages to a mere trespasser coming upon his property for any injury occasioned by the unsafe condition of the property which the owner has intentionally permitted to exist, such as installed spring guns, unless adequate warning is given thereof. In

    182

    Page 666

    184

            However, left unsettled by this and other court pronouncements is the means which may be used to repel, prevent, or apprehend a trespasser engaged in a more serious criminal offense. True, there is a line of cases which seem to apply the same rule to all criminal trespasses except those involving arson, rape, assault, or other acts of violence against persons residing on the property invaded. State v. Vance, 17 Iowa 138 (1864); State v. Plumlee, 177 La. 687, 149 So. 425 (1933); Pierce v. Commonwealth, 135 Va. 635, 115 S.E. 686 (Virginia, 1923); Simpson v. State, 59 Ala. 1, 31 Am.Rep. 1 (1877); State v. Barr, 11 Wash. 481, 39 P. 1080 (1895); Starkey v. Dameron, 96 Colo. 459, 21 P.2d 1112 (1933); State v. Beckham, 306 Mo. 566, 267 S.W. 817 (1924); Bird v. Holbrook, 4 Bingham's Reports 628 (England, 1828). Also see annotation, 44 A.L.R.2d 391, § 5, and citations. There are others which at least infer that any serious law violation by the trespasser might permit the reasonable use of dangerous instrumentalities to repel the intruder and prevent loss or damage to one's valuable property. Scheuermann v. Scharfenberg, 163 Ala. 337, 50 So. 335; Marquis v. Benfer, Tex.Civ.App., 298 S.W.2d 601 (Texas 1956); Grant v. Hass, 31 Tex.Civ.App. 688, 75 S.W. 342 (1903); Gray v. Combs, 7 J.J. Marshall 478 (Ky., 1832), 23 Am.Dec. 431; Ilott v. Wilkes, 3 B. & A. 304 (1820 K.B.).

    186

            Also see the following articles on this subject: 68 Yale Law Journal 633, Duties to Trespassers: A Comparative Survey and Revaluation; 35 Yale Law Journal 525, The Privilege to Protect Property by Dangerous Barriers and Mechanical Devices; annotation, 44 A.L.R.2d 383, Use of Set Gun, Trap, or Similar Device on Defendant's Own Property.

    188

            Most of these discussions center around what should be public policy regarding a property owner's right to use a dangerous weapon or instrumentality to protect his premises from intruders or trespassers, and his duty to protect the trespasser from serious injury while upon his premises.

    190

            Some states, including Wisconsin, have statutes which announce the jurisdiction's public policy. Often they prohibit the use of spring guns or such devices to protect real and personal property, and of course in those instances a property owner, regardless of his intent or purpose, has no right to make use of them and is liable to anyone injured thereby. Since there has been no such statutory prohibition or direct judicial pronouncement to that effect prior to this time in this state, it could not be said as a matter of law that the mere placing of a spring gun in a building on one's premises is unlawful. Much depends upon its placement and purpose. Whether an owner exceeds his privilege to reasonably defend his property by such an installation, and whether liability is incurred in a given case, should therefore depend upon the circumstances revealed, the intent of the property owner, and his care in setting the device. In any event, I question whether it should be determined solely by the results of his act or its effect upon the intruder.

    192

            It appears there are cases and some authority which would relieve one setting a spring gun on his premises of any liability if adequate warning had been given an intruder and he ignores the warning. In all of these cases there is a question as to

    194

    Page 667

    196

            If, after proper instructions, the finder of fact determines that the gun was set with an intent and purpose to kill or inflict great bodily injury on an intruder, then and only then may it be said liability is established unless the property so protected is shown to be an occupied dwelling house. Of course, under this concept, if the finder of fact determines the gun set in an unoccupied house was intended to do no more than to frighten the intruder or sting him a bit, no liability would be incurred under such pleadings as are now presented. If such a concept of the law were adopted in Iowa, we would have here a question for the fact-finder or jury as to whether the gun was willfully and intentionally set so as to seriously injure the thief or merely scare him away.

    198

            I feel the better rule is that an owner of buildings housing valuable property may employ the use of spring guns or other devices intended to repeal but not seriously injure an intruder who enters his secured premises with or without a criminal intent, but I do not advocate its general use, for there may also be liability for negligent installation of such a device. What I mean to say is that under such circumstances as we have here the issue as to whether the set was with an intent to seriously injure or kill an intruder is a question of fact that should be left to the jury under proper instructions, the that the mere setting of such a device with a resultant serious injury should not as a matter of law establish liability.

    200

            In the case of a mere trespass able authorities have reasoned that absolute liability may rightfully be fixed on the landowner for injuries to the trespasser because very little damage could be inflicted upon the property owner and the danger is great that a child or other innocent trespasser might be seriously injured by the device. In such matters they say no privilege to set up the device should be recognized by the courts regardless of the owner's intent. I agree.

    202

            On the other hand, where the intruder may pose a danger to the inhabitants of a dwelling, the privilege of using such a device to repel has been recognized by most authorities, and the mere setting thereof in the dwelling has not been held to create liability for an injury as a matter of law. In such cases intent and the reasonableness of the force would seem relevant to liability.

    204

            Although I am aware of the often-repeated statement that personal rights are more important than property rights, where the owner has stored his valuables representing his life's accumulations, his livelihood business, his tools and implements, and his treasured antiques as appears in the case at bar, and where the evidence is sufficient to sustain a finding that the installation was intended only as a warning to ward off thieves and criminals, I can see no compelling reason why the use of such a device alone would create liability as a matter of law.

    206

            For cases considering the devices a property owner is or is not privileged to use to repel a mere trespasser, see Hooker v. Miller, supra, 37 Iowa 613 (trap gun set in orchard to repel); State v. Vance, supra, 17 Iowa 138 (1864); Phelps v. Hamlett, Tex.Civ.App., 207 S.W. 425 (1918) (bomb set in open air theater); State v. Plumlee, supra, 177 La. 687, 149 So. 425 (1933) (trap gun set in open barn); Starkey v. Dameron, supra, 96 Colo. 459, 21 P.2d 1112 (1933) (spring gun in outdoor automatic gas pump); State v. Childers, 133 Ohio St. 508, 14 N.E.2d 767 (1938) (trap gun in melon patch); Weis v. Allen, 147 Or. 670, 35 P.2d 478 (1934) (trap gun in junkyard); Johnson v. Patterson, 14 Conn. 1 (1840)

    208

    Page 668

    210

            For cases apparently holding dangerous devices may be used to ward off and prevent a trespasser from breaking and entering into an inhabited dwelling, see State v. Vance, supra; Grant v. Hass, supra; Scheuermann v. Scharfenberg, supra; Simpson v. State, supra; United States v. Gilliam, 1 Hayw. & H. 109, 25 Fed.Cas. 1319, p. 1320, No. 15,205 a (D.C. 1882); State v. Childers, supra; Gramlich v. Wurst, 86 Pa. 74, 80 (1878).

    212

            Also, for cases considering the devices a property owner is privileged to use to repel an invader where there is no threat to human life or safety, see Allison v. Fiscus, 156 Ohio St. 120, 100 N.E.2d 237, 44 A.L.R.2d 369; State v. Barr, 11 Wash. 481, 39 P. 1080 (1895); State v. Childers, supra; Weis v. Allen, supra; Pierce v. Commonwealth, supra; Johnson v. Patterson, supra; Marquis v. Benfer, supra.

    214

            In Allison v. Fiscus, supra, at page 241 of 100 N.E.2d, it is said: 'Assuredly, * * * the court had no right to hold as a matter of law that defendant was liable to plaintiff, as the Defendant's good faith in using the force which he did to protect his building and the good faith of his belief as to the nature of the force he was using were questions for the jury to determine under proper instructions.' (Emphasis supplied.)

    216

            In State v. Barr, supra, at page 1081 of 39 P., the court said: '* * * whether or not what was done in a particular case was justified under the law must be a question of fact, or mixed law and fact, and not a pure question of law.'

    218

            In State v. Childers, supra, it is said at page 768 of 14 N.E.2d: 'Of course the act in question must be done maliciously * * * and That fact must be proved and found by the jury to exist.' (Emphasis supplied.)

    220

            Also see State v. Metcalfe, 203 Iowa 155, 212 N.W. 382, where this court discussed the force that a property owner may use to oppose an unlawful effort to carry away his goods, and held the essential issue in such matters which must be explained to the jury is not the nature of the weapon employed but whether the defendant employed only that degree of force to accomplish such purpose which a reasonable person would deem reasonably necessary under the circumstances as they appeared in good faith to the defendant.

    222

            Like the Ohio Supreme Court in Allison v. Fiscus, supra, I believe that the basis of liability, if any, in such a case should be either the intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct of the owner in setting the device.

    224

            If this is not a desirable expression of policy in this jurisdiction, I suggest the body selected and best fitted to establish a different public policy would be the State Legislature.

    226

            The next question presented is, which view of the law set out above did the trial court take, the view that the mere setting of a spring gun or like device in defendants' building created liability for the resulting injury, or the view that there must be a setting of the device with an intent to shoot, kill, or seriously injure one engaged in breaking and entering this house? Appellants argue this was not made clear in the court's instructions to the jury and, being material, is error. I agree.

    228

            They contend Instructions Nos. 2, 5 and 6, to which proper and timely exceptions were taken, are improper, that they were so inadequate and confusing as to constitute reversible error and required the trial court to grant their motion for a new trial.

    230

            Instruction No. 5 provides:

    232

            'You are hereby instructed that one may use reasonable force in the protection of his property, but such right is subject to the qualification that one may not Use such means of force as will take human life

    234

    Page 669

    236

            Instruction No. 6 provides:

    238

            'An owner of premises is prohibited from willfully or intentionally injuring a trespasser by means of force that either takes life or inflicts great bodily injury; and therefore a person owning a premise is prohibited from setting out 'spring guns' and like dangerous devices which will likely take life or inflict great bodily injury, For the purpose of harming trespassers. The fact that the trespasser may be acting in violation of the law does not change in the rule. The only time when such conduct of setting a 'spring gun' or a like dangerous device is justified would be when the trespasser was committing a felony of violence or a felony punishable by death, or where the trespasser was endangering human life by his act.' (Emphasis supplied.)

    240

            Specific objections were made to Instruction No. 2, inter alia, to the statement that in this jurisdiction the use of force which may take life or inflict serious bodily injury might be used was restricted to occupied dwellings or where specific statutes permitted its use; to the reference to an Iowa case wherein the subject related to a Simple trespass in a vineyard where no breaking and entry of a building was involved, without pointing out the difference as to permissible force permitted to repel one entering the owner's buildings with intent to ravish and steal valuable personal property; and to the error resulting when the court wrongfully directed the jury to find defendants' acts were illegal by stating 'that in so doing he violated the law and became liable for injuries sustained by the plaintiff.'

    242

            In other words, defendants contended that this instruction failed to tell the jury the extent of defendants' rights to defend against burglary in buildings other than their dwelling, inferring they have no right to employ a device which is dangerous to life and limb, regardless of its intended purpose only to ward off or scare the intruder.

    244

            Defendants also specifically objected to Instruction No. 5 because it also limited the right or privilege of one to use dangerous devices in any way to protect his property, and made it applicable to cases where the invader was in violation of the law, without classifying his offense.

    246

            Instruction No. 6 was specifically objected to as not being a proper statement of the law, as being inadequate, confusing, and misleading to the jury in regard to the vital issues in this case, because it would not be possible for a jury to understand the court when it told the jurors an owner of premises is prohibited from willfully or intentionally injuring a trespasser by means of force that either takes life or inflicts great bodily injury, and then told them a person owning premises is prohibited from setting out spring guns and like dangerous devices which will 'likely' take life or inflict great bodily injury, For the purpose of harming trespassers.

    248

            Appellants argue from these instructions the jury could conclude it must find any setting of a spring gun or such other device to protect his property from a bulglar or other criminal invader made the owner Absolutely liable for injuries suffered by the intruder, unless the building being so protected was a dwelling, regardless of the owner's intent and purpose in setting the device in his building. On the other hand, in Instruction No. 6 the court refers to such a Setting with the intent and purpose of killing or seriously injuring the intruder in order to make the owner liable for damages.

    250

            I too find these instructions are confusing. If the court was telling the jury, as appellants contend, that an owner of a premise may not set a spring gun to protect his property unless the trespasser's act amounts to a felony of violence and

    252

    Page 670

    254

            I would, therefore, conclude there is merit in appellants' contention that the law was not made clear to the jury as to whether the act of placing a spring gun on this premise was prohibited by law, or whether the act of placing such a device requires a finding of intention to shoot the intruder or cause him great bodily injury to establish liability. I cannot tell whether the jury found liability on the mere act of placing the gun as Mr. Briney did in this house or on the fact that he did so with the intent to seriously harm a trespasser.

    256

            In the case at bar, as I have pointed out, there is a sharp conflict in the evidence. The physical facts and certain admissions as to how the gun was aimed would tend to support a finding of intent to injure, while the direct testimony of both defendants was that the gun was placed so it would 'hit the floor eventually' and that it was set 'low so it couldn't kill anybody.' Mr. Briney testified, 'My purpose in setting up the gun was not to injure somebody. I thought more or less that the gun would be at a distance of where anyone would grab the door, it would scare them', and in setting the angle of the gun to hit the lower part of the door, he said, 'I didn't think it would go through quite that hard.'

    258

            If the law in this jurisdiction permits, which I think it does, an explanation of the setting of a spring gun to repel invaders of certain private property, then the intent with which the set is made is a vital element in the liability issue.

    260

            In view of the failure to distinguish and clearly give the jury the basis upon which it should determine that liability issue, I would reverse and remand the entire case for a new trial.

    262

            As indicated, under these circumstances the trial court should not have submitted the punitive damage issue to the jury in this case. By Instruction No. 14 the learned trial judge wrongfully instructed the jury that the law of Iowa allows a jury in such a case to award exemplary damages if it is found that the act complained of is wanton and reckless or where the defendants are guilty of malice. True, this instruction was in accordance with certain past pronouncements of this court and no objection was taken to the substance of the instruction, but defendants have always contended under these circumstances the court should not have submitted the question of exemplary damages to the jury. We have never extended the exemplary damage law to cover such cases and I maintain we should not do so now, directly or indirectly. Without such a pronouncement to that extent, or some legislation extending that right to a person engaged in a serious criminal offense at the time of his injury, I believe the trial court possessed no jurisdiction to permit the jury to pass on such a claim, even though no objections thereto were made by the defendants.

    264

            Although this subject has been considered and discussed in several Iowa cases, including Sebastian v. Wood, 246 Iowa 94, 66 N.W.2d 841, and citations, granting exemplary damages for injury due to alleged reckless driving, and Amos v. Prom, 115 F.Supp. 127, relating to alleged mental suffering and humiliation when denied admission to a public dance hall, none seem to consider whether punitive damages are permitted where the injured party was, as here, engaged in a criminal act such as breaking and entering, burglary, or other serious offense. Also see Morgan v. Muench, 181 Iowa 719, 156 N.W. 819, and Stricklen v. Pearson Construction Co., 185 Iowa 95, 169 N.W. 628, and citations in each.

    266

    Page 671

    268

            Although I have found no authority to assist me in my view, I am convinced it is correct in principle and should be adopted in this jurisdiction. In so doing, I adhere to the rule recognized in Amos v. Prom, supra, at 137, et seq., where it is stated: '* * * the principle that intentional wrongful action in disregard for the rights of others amounts to conduct to which the law will attach a penalty and deterrent by way of exemplary damages.' However, I would not extend this privilege to a case where the injured party's conduct itself was criminal and extremely violative of good public behavior.

    270

            From a general review of the subject of exemplary or punitive damages beginning with Wilkes v. Wood (1763), Lofft 1, 98 English Rep. 489, 498, which stated such 'Damages are designed not only as a satisfaction to the injured person, but likewise as a punishment to the guilty, to deter from any such proceeding for the future, * * *', I find that both in England and the United States the purpose of this law was to restrain arbitrary and out-rageous use of power. See 70 Harvard L.Rev. 517, 519 (1957), Exemplary Damages in the Law of Torts.

    272

            In Hawk v. Ridgway, 33 Ill, 473, 475 (1864), the Illinois court said, 'Where the wrong is wanton, or it is willful, the jury are authorized to give an amount of damages beyond the actual injury sustained, as a punishment, and to preserve the public tranquillity.'

    274

            Some courts rationalize punitive damages on the basis that they provide an outlet for the injured party's desire for revenge and thereby help keep the peace. Some others rationalize it as a punishment to defendant and to deter him and others from further antisocial conduct. It has also been said punitive damages are ordinarily a means of increasing the severity of the admonition inherent in the compensatory award. See 44 Harvard L.Rev. 1173 (1931).

    276

            A further study of this law indicates punitive damages have a direct relation to the criminal law. Historically, it was undoubtedly one of the functions of tort law To deter wrongful behavior. However, in modern times its priority has become that of compensating the victm of the injury. The business of punishing wrongdoers has increasingly become the exclusive purview of the criminal law. See Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, Vol. II, 2d Ed. (1898), § 1, pp. 449--462.

    278

            The award of punitive damages in modern tort law gives rise to considerable anomalies. Such damages, of course, go to the private purse of the individual plaintiff and may be classified a windfall as to him in excess of his actual losses due entirely to a social judgment about defendant's conduct.

    280

            In properly applying this law Professor McCormick, in his treatise on damages found on pages 276 and 277 in McCormick on Damages (1935), said, 'Perhaps the principal advantage is that it does tend to bring to punishment a type of cases of oppressive conduct, such as slanders, assaults, minor oppressions, and cruelties, which are theoretically criminally punishable, but which in actual practice go unnoticed by prosecutors occupied with more serious crimes. * * * The self-interest of the plaintiff leads to the actual prosecution of the claim for punitive damages, where the same motive would often lead him to refrain from the trouble incident to appearing against the wrongdoer in criminal proceedings.'

    282

            So understood, punitive damages are an adjunct to the criminal law, yet one over which the criminal law has no control, and in the United Kingdom, the land of its birth, punitive damages are close to entinct. In Rookes v. Barnard, Appeal Cases (House of Lords, 1964) 1129, at 1221 et seq., the English court of last resort confined the award of punitive damages to a very narrow range of situations. It ruled in an intentional tort case that exemplary

    284

    Page 672

    286

            In the case at bar the plaintiff was guilty of serious criminal conduct, which event gave rise to his claim against defendants. Even so, he may be eligible for an award of compensatory damages which so far as the law is concerned redresses him and places him in the position he was prior to sustaining the injury. The windfall he would receive in the form of punitive damages is bothersome to the principle of damages, because it is a response to the conduct of the defendants rather than any reaction to the loss suffered by plaintiff or any measurement of his worthiness for the award.

    288

            When such a windfall comes to a criminal as a result of his indulgence in serious criminal conduct, the result is intolerable and indeed shocks the conscience. If we find the law upholds such a result, the criminal would be permitted by operation of law to profit from his own crime.

    290

            Furthermore, if our civil courts are to sustain such a result, it would in principle interfere with the purposes and policies of the criminal law. This would certainly be ironic since punitive damages have been thought to assist and promote those purposes, at least so far as the conduct of the defendant is concerned.

    292

            We cannot in good conscience ignore the conduct of the plaintiff. He does not come into court with clean hands, and attempts to make a claim to punitive damages in part on his own criminal conduct. In such circumstances, to enrich him would be unjust, and compensatory damages in such a case itself would be a sufficient deterrent to the defendant or others who might intend to set such a device.

    294

            The criminal law can take whatever action is appropriate in such cases, but the civil law should not compound the breach of proper social conduct by rewarding the plaintiff for his crime. I conclude one engaged in a criminal activity is an unworthy object of largesse bestowed by punitive damages and hold the law does not support such a claim to enrichment in this case.

    296

            The admonitory function of the tort law is adequately served where the compensatory damages claimed are high and the granted award itself may act as a severe punishment and a deterrence. In such a case as we have here there is no need to hold out the prospect of punitive damages as an incentive to sue and rectify a minor physical damage such as a redress for lost dignity. Certainly this is not a case where defendants might profit in excess of the amount of reparation they may have to pay.

    298

            In a case of this kind there is no overwhelming social purpose to be achieved by punishing defendants beyond the compensatory sum claimed for damages.

    300

            Being convinced that there was reversible error in the court's instructions, that the issue of intent in placing the spring gun was not clearly presented to the jury, and that the issue as to punitive damages should not have been presented to the jury, I would reverse and remand the matter for a new trial.

    302

            The majority seem to ignore the evident issue of punitive policy involved herein and uphold the punitive damage award on a mere technical rule of civil procedure.

  • 3 CompuServe v. CyberPromotions--"The Damaging Spam Case"

    Should tort law recognize spamming as trespass against an individual's property? If so, should there be some limits on who may sue spam senders?

    3
    962 F.Supp. 1015

    6
    COMPUSERVE INCORPORATED, Plaintiff,
    v.
    CYBER PROMOTIONS, INC. and Sanford Wallace, Defendants.

    9
    No. C2-96-1070.

    12
    United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division.

    15
    February 3, 1997.
    17

    Page 1016

    19

    COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

    21

    Page 1017

    23

            Robert W. Hamilton, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Columbus, OH, Kenneth B. Wilson and David H. Kramer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto, CA, for Plaintiffs.

    25

            Alan Charles Witten, McShane, Breitfeller & Witten, Columbus, OH, Ralph A. Jacobs, Hoyle, Morris & Kerr, Philadelphia, PA, for Defendants.

    28
    MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
    30

            GRAHAM, District Judge.

    32

            This case presents novel issues regarding the commercial use of the Internet, specifically the right of an online computer service to prevent a commercial enterprise from sending unsolicited electronic mail advertising to its subscribers.

    34

            Plaintiff CompuServe Incorporated ("CompuServe") is one of the major national commercial online computer services. It operates a computer communication service through a proprietary nationwide computer network. In addition to allowing access to the extensive content available within its own proprietary network, CompuServe also provides its subscribers with a link to the much larger resources of the Internet. This allows its subscribers to send and receive electronic messages, known as "e-mail," by the Internet. Defendants Cyber Promotions, Inc. and its president Sanford Wallace are in the business of sending unsolicited e-mail advertisements on behalf of themselves and their clients to hundreds of thousands of Internet users, many of whom are CompuServe subscribers. CompuServe has notified defendants that they are prohibited from using its computer equipment to process and store the unsolicited e-mail and has requested that they terminate the practice. Instead, defendants have sent an increasing volume of e-mail solicitations to CompuServe subscribers. CompuServe has attempted to employ technological means to block the flow of defendants' e-mail transmissions to its computer equipment, but to no avail.

    36

            This matter is before the Court on the application of CompuServe for a preliminary injunction which would extend the duration of the temporary restraining order issued by this Court on October 24, 1996 and which would in addition prevent defendants from sending unsolicited advertisements to CompuServe subscribers.

    38

            For the reasons which follow, this Court holds that where defendants engaged in a course of conduct of transmitting a substantial volume of electronic data in the form of unsolicited e-mail to plaintiff's proprietary computer equipment, where defendants continued such practice after repeated demands to cease and desist, and where defendants deliberately evaded plaintiff's affirmative efforts to protect its computer equipment from such use, plaintiff has a viable claim for trespass to personal property and is entitled to injunctive relief to protect its property.

    41
    I.
    43

            The Court will begin its analysis of the issues by acknowledging, for the purpose of providing a background, certain findings of

    45

    Page 1018

    47

    fact recently made by another district court in a case involving the Internet:

    49

            1. The Internet is not a physical or tangible entity, but rather a giant network which interconnects innumerable smaller groups of linked computer networks. It is thus a network of networks....

    51

            2. Some networks are "closed" networks, not linked to other computers or networks. Many networks, however, are connected to other networks, which are in turn connected to other networks in a manner which permits each computer in any network to communicate with computers on any other network in the system. This global Web of linked networks and computers is referred to as the Internet.

    53

            3. The nature of the Internet is such that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine its size at a given moment. It is indisputable, however, that the Internet has experienced extraordinary growth in recent years.... In all, reasonable estimates are that as many as 40 million people around the world can and do access the enormously flexible communication Internet medium. That figure is expected to grow to 200 million Internet users by the year 1999.

    55

            4. Some of the computers and computer networks that make up the network are owned by governmental and public institutions, some are owned by non-profit organizations, and some are privately owned. The resulting whole is a decentralized, global medium of communications — or "cyberspace" — that links people, institutions, corporations, and governments around the world....

    57

            ....

    59

            11. No single entity — academic, corporate, governmental, or non-profit — administers the Internet. It exists and functions as a result of the fact that hundreds of thousands of separate operators of computers and computer networks independently decided to use common data transfer protocols to exchange communications and information with other computers (which in turn exchange communications and information with still other computers). There is no centralized storage location, control point, or communications channel for the Internet, and it would not be technically feasible for a single entity to control all of the information conveyed on the Internet.

    61

            American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno, 929 F.Supp. 824, 830-832 (E.D.Pa.1996). In 1994, one commentator noted that "advertisements on the current Internet computer network are not common because of that network's not-for-profit origins." Trotter Hardy, The Proper Legal Regime for "Cyberspace", 55 U.Pitt.L.Rev. 993, 1027 (1994). In 1997, that statement is no longer true.

    63

            Internet users often pay a fee for Internet access. However, there is no per-message charge to send electronic messages over the Internet and such messages usually reach their destination within minutes. Thus electronic mail provides an opportunity to reach a wide audience quickly and at almost no cost to the sender. It is not surprising therefore that some companies, like defendant Cyber Promotions, Inc., have begun using the Internet to distribute advertisements by sending the same unsolicited commercial message to hundreds of thousands of Internet users at once. Defendants refer to this as "bulk e-mail," while plaintiff refers to it as "junk e-mail." In the vernacular of the Internet, unsolicited e-mail advertising is sometimes referred to pejoratively as "spam."1

    65

            CompuServe subscribers use CompuServe's domain name "CompuServe.com" together with their own unique alpha-numeric identifier to form a distinctive e-mail mailing address. That address may be used by the subscriber to exchange electronic mail with any one of tens of millions of other Internet users who have electronic mail capability. E-mail sent to CompuServe subscribers is processed and stored on CompuServe's proprietary computer equipment. Thereafter, it becomes accessible to CompuServe's subscribers, who can access CompuServe's equipment and electronically retrieve those messages.

    67

    Page 1019

    69

            Over the past several months, CompuServe has received many complaints from subscribers threatening to discontinue their subscription unless CompuServe prohibits electronic mass mailers from using its equipment to send unsolicited advertisements. CompuServe asserts that the volume of messages generated by such mass mailings places a significant burden on its equipment which has finite processing and storage capacity. CompuServe receives no payment from the mass mailers for processing their unsolicited advertising. However, CompuServe's subscribers pay for their access to CompuServe's services in increments of time and thus the process of accessing, reviewing and discarding unsolicited e-mail costs them money, which is one of the reasons for their complaints. CompuServe has notified defendants that they are prohibited from using its proprietary computer equipment to process and store unsolicited e-mail and has requested them to cease and desist from sending unsolicited e-mail to its subscribers. Nonetheless, defendants have sent an increasing volume of e-mail solicitations to CompuServe subscribers.

    71

            In an effort to shield its equipment from defendants' bulk e-mail, CompuServe has implemented software programs designed to screen out the messages and block their receipt. In response, defendants have modified their equipment and the messages they send in such a fashion as to circumvent CompuServe's screening software. Allegedly, defendants have been able to conceal the true origin of their messages by falsifying the point-of-origin information contained in the header of the electronic messages. Defendants have removed the "sender" information in the header of their messages and replaced it with another address. Also, defendants have developed the capability of configuring their computer servers to conceal their true domain name and appear on the Internet as another computer, further concealing the true origin of the messages. By manipulating this data, defendants have been able to continue sending messages to CompuServe's equipment in spite of CompuServe's protests and protective efforts.

    73

            Defendants assert that they possess the right to continue to send these communications to CompuServe subscribers. CompuServe contends that, in doing so, the defendants are trespassing upon its personal property.

    76
    II.
    78

            The grant or denial of a motion for preliminary injunction rests within the discretion of the trial court. Deckert v. Independence Shares Corp., 311 U.S. 282, 61 S.Ct. 229, 85 L.Ed. 189 (1940). In determining whether a motion for preliminary injunction should be granted, a court must consider and balance four factors: (1) the likelihood that the party seeking the preliminary injunction will succeed on the merits of the claim; (2) whether the party seeking the injunction will suffer irreparable harm without the grant of the extraordinary relief; (3) the probability that granting the injunction will cause substantial harm to others; and (4) whether the public interest is advanced by the issuance of the injunction. Washington v. Reno, 35 F.3d 1093, 1099 (6th Cir.1994); International Longshoremen's Assoc. v. Norfolk S. Corp., 927 F.2d 900, 903 (6th Cir.1991). None of these individual factors constitute prerequisites that must be met for the issuance of a preliminary injunction, they are instead factors that are to be balanced. In re DeLorean Motor Co., 755 F.2d 1223, 1229 (6th Cir. 1985). A preliminary injunction is customarily granted on the basis of procedures that are less formal and evidence that is less complete than in a full trial on the merits. Indeed, "[a] party ... is not required to prove his case in full at a preliminary injunction hearing." University of Texas v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395, 101 S.Ct. 1830, 1834, 68 L.Ed.2d 175 (1981).

    81
    III.
    83

            This Court shall first address plaintiff's motion as it relates to perpetuating the temporary restraining order filed on October 24, 1996. That order enjoins defendants from:

    85

            (i) Using CompuServe accounts or CompuServe's equipment or support services to send or receive electronic mail or messages

    87

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    or in connection with the sending or receiving of electronic mail or messages;

    91

            (ii) Inserting any false reference to a CompuServe account or CompuServe equipment in any electronic message sent by Defendants; and

    93

            (iii) Falsely representing or causing their electronic mail or messages to bear the representation that any electronic mail or message sent by Defendants was sent by or originated from CompuServe or a CompuServe account.

    95

            (Temporary Restraining Order at 4).

    97

            As a general matter, the findings of this Court enunciated in its temporary restraining order are applicable to the request for preliminary injunction now at issue. The behavior described in subsections (ii) and (iii) of the temporary restraining order would be actionable as false representations or descriptions under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). Also, the same behavior is actionable under the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Ohio Rev.Code § 4165(B) and (D).

    99

            Defendants argue that the restrictions in the temporary restraining order are no longer necessary because defendants no longer have a CompuServe account. That being the case, a preliminary injunction perpetuating the proscribed activity articulated in subsection (i) of the temporary restraining order will present no hardship at all to defendants. Next, it does not appear that defendants would need to have a CompuServe account to perpetrate the proscribed acts articulated in subsections (ii) and (iii) of the temporary restraining order. Therefore, the fact that defendants no longer have an account with plaintiff does not vitiate the need which CompuServe has demonstrated for an injunction proscribing the acts set forth in those subsections.

    101

            For the foregoing reasons and the reasons articulated in the temporary restraining order issued by this Court, defendants Cyber Promotions, Inc. and its president Sanford Wallace are hereby enjoined from performing any of the acts therein described during the pendency of this litigation.

    104
    IV.
    106

            This Court will now address the second aspect of plaintiff's motion in which it seeks to enjoin defendants Cyber Promotions, Inc. and its president Sanford Wallace from sending any unsolicited advertisements to any electronic mail address maintained by CompuServe.

    108

            CompuServe predicates this aspect of its motion for a preliminary injunction on the common law theory of trespass to personal property or to chattels, asserting that defendants' continued transmission of electronic messages to its computer equipment constitutes an actionable tort.

    110

            Trespass to chattels has evolved from its original common law application, concerning primarily the asportation of another's tangible property, to include the unauthorized use of personal property:

    112

            Its chief importance now, is that there may be recovery ... for interferences with the possession of chattels which are not sufficiently important to be classed as conversion, and so to compel the defendant to pay the full value of the thing with which he has interfered. Trespass to chattels survives today, in other words, largely as a little brother of conversion.

    114

            Prosser & Keeton, Prosser and Keeton on Torts, § 14, 85-86 (1984).

    116

            The scope of an action for conversion recognized in Ohio may embrace the facts in the instant case. The Supreme Court of Ohio established the definition of conversion under Ohio law in Baltimore & O.R. Co. v. O'Donnell, 49 Ohio St. 489, 32 N.E. 476, 478 (1892) by stating that:

    118

            [I]n order to constitute a conversion, it was not necessary that there should have been an actual appropriation of the property by the defendant to its own use and benefit. It might arise from the exercise of a dominion over it in exclusion of the rights of the owner, or withholding it from his possession under a claim inconsistent with his rights. If one take the property of another, for a temporary purpose only, in disregard of the owner's right, it is a conversion. Either a wrongful taking, an assumption of ownership, an illegal use or

    120

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    misuse, or a wrongful detention of chattels will constitute a conversion.

    124

            Id. at 497-98, 32 N.E. 476; see also Miller v. Uhl, 37 Ohio App. 276, 174 N.E. 591 (1929); Great American Mut. Indem. Co. v. Meyer, 18 Ohio App. 97 (1924); 18 O. Jur.3d, Conversion § 17. While authority under Ohio law respecting an action for trespass to chattels is extremely meager, it appears to be an actionable tort. See State of Ohio v. Herbert, 49 Ohio St.2d 88, 119, 358 N.E.2d 1090, 1106 (1976) (dissenting opinion) ("any workable cause of action would appear to be trespass to chattels"); see also Greenwald v. Kearns, 104 Ohio App. 473, 145 N.E.2d 462 (1957) (trespass on the rights of plaintiff in personal property is a precursor to an act in conversion); Simmons v. Dimitrouleas Wallcovering, Inc., No. 14804, 1995 WL 19136, at *2 (Ohio App. Jan.18, 1995) (the court of appeals acknowledged that trespass to chattel claims were barred because those claims were dependent upon claimant's ownership of the subject personal property); Klinebriel v. Smith, No. 94CA1641, 1996 WL 57947, at *2 (Ohio App. Feb.6, 1996) (where the court of appeals let stand a jury award on a "trespass against personal property" claim); Springfield Bank v. Caserta, 10 B.R. 57 (Bankr. S.D.Ohio 1981) (common law principles of trespass to chattels in Am.Jur.2d applied as controlling under Ohio law).

    126

            Both plaintiff and defendants cite the Restatement (Second) of Torts to support their respective positions. In determining a question unanswered by state law, it is appropriate for this Court to consider such sources as the restatement of the law and decisions of other jurisdictions. Bailey v. V & O Press Co., Inc., 770 F.2d 601, 604-606 (6th Cir. 1985) (where court considered positions expressed in the Restatement (Second) of Torts in interpreting Ohio's principles of comparative negligence) Garrison v. Jervis B. Webb Co., 583 F.2d 258, 262 n. 6 (1978); see also Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 4507 (West 1996).

    128

            The Restatement § 217(b) states that a trespass to chattel may be committed by intentionally using or intermeddling with the chattel in possession of another. Restatement § 217, Comment e defines physical "intermeddling" as follows:

    130

            ... intentionally bringing about a physical contact with the chattel. The actor may commit a trespass by an act which brings him into an intended physical contact with a chattel in the possession of another[.]

    132

            Electronic signals generated and sent by computer have been held to be sufficiently physically tangible to support a trespass cause of action. Thrifty-Tel, Inc., v. Bezenek, 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 1567, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468 (1996); State v. McGraw, 480 N.E.2d 552, 554 (Ind.1985) (Indiana Supreme Court recognizing in dicta that a hacker's unauthorized access to a computer was more in the nature of trespass than criminal conversion); and State v. Riley, 121 Wash.2d 22, 846 P.2d 1365 (1993) (computer hacking as the criminal offense of "computer trespass" under Washington law). It is undisputed that plaintiff has a possessory interest in its computer systems. Further, defendants' contact with plaintiff's computers is clearly intentional. Although electronic messages may travel through the Internet over various routes, the messages are affirmatively directed to their destination.

    134

            Defendants, citing Restatement (Second) of Torts § 221, which defines "dispossession", assert that not every interference with the personal property of another is actionable and that physical dispossession or substantial interference with the chattel is required. Defendants then argue that they did not, in this case, physically dispossess plaintiff of its equipment or substantially interfere with it. However, the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 218 defines the circumstances under which a trespass to chattels may be actionable:

    136

            One who commits a trespass to a chattel is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if,

    138

            (a) he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or

    140

            (b) the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value, or

    142

            (c) the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or

    144

            (d) bodily harm is caused to the possessor, or harm is caused to some person or thing

    146

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    in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.

    150

            Therefore, an interference resulting in physical dispossession is just one circumstance under which a defendant can be found liable. Defendants suggest that "[u]nless an alleged trespasser actually takes physical custody of the property or physically damages it, courts will not find the `substantial interference' required to maintain a trespass to chattel claim." (Defendant's Memorandum at 13). To support this rather broad proposition, defendants cite only two cases which make any reference to the Restatement. In Glidden v. Szybiak, 95 N.H. 318, 63 A.2d 233 (1949), the court simply indicated that an action for trespass to chattels could not be maintained in the absence of some form of damage. The court held that where plaintiff did not contend that defendant's pulling on her pet dog's ears caused any injury, an action in tort could not be maintained. Id. 63 A.2d at 235. In contrast, plaintiff in the present action has alleged that it has suffered several types if injury as a result of defendants' conduct. In Koepnick v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 158 Ariz. 322, 762 P.2d 609 (1988) the court held that a two-minute search of an individual's truck did not amount to a "dispossession" of the truck as defined in Restatement § 221 or a deprivation of the use of the truck for a substantial time. It is clear from a reading of Restatement § 218 that an interference or intermeddling that does not fit the § 221 definition of "dispossession" can nonetheless result in defendants' liability for trespass. The Koepnick court did not discuss any of the other grounds for liability under Restatement § 218.

    152

            A plaintiff can sustain an action for trespass to chattels, as opposed to an action for conversion, without showing a substantial interference with its right to possession of that chattel. Thrifty-Tel, Inc., 46 Cal. App.4th at 1567, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468 (quoting Zaslow v. Kroenert, 29 Cal.2d 541, 176 P.2d 1 (Cal.1946)). Harm to the personal property or diminution of its quality, condition, or value as a result of defendants' use can also be the predicate for liability. Restatement § 218(b).

    154

            An unprivileged use or other intermeddling with a chattel which results in actual impairment of its physical condition, quality or value to the possessor makes the actor liable for the loss thus caused. In the great majority of cases, the actor's intermeddling with the chattel impairs the value of it to the possessor, as distinguished from the mere affront to his dignity as possessor, only by some impairment of the physical condition of the chattel. There may, however, be situations in which the value to the owner of a particular type of chattel may be impaired by dealing with it in a manner that does not affect its physical condition.... In such a case, the intermeddling is actionable even though the physical condition of the chattel is not impaired.

    156

            The Restatement (Second) of Torts § 218, comment h. In the present case, any value CompuServe realizes from its computer equipment is wholly derived from the extent to which that equipment can serve its subscriber base. Michael Mangino, a software developer for CompuServe who monitors its mail processing computer equipment, states by affidavit that handling the enormous volume of mass mailings that CompuServe receives places a tremendous burden on its equipment. (Mangino Supp. Dec. at ¶ 12). Defendants' more recent practice of evading CompuServe's filters by disguising the origin of their messages commandeers even more computer resources because CompuServe's computers are forced to store undeliverable e-mail messages and labor in vain to return the messages to an address that does not exist. (Mangino Supp. Dec. at ¶¶ 7-8). To the extent that defendants' multitudinous electronic mailings demand the disk space and drain the processing power of plaintiff's computer equipment, those resources are not available to serve CompuServe subscribers. Therefore, the value of that equipment to CompuServe is diminished even though it is not physically damaged by defendants' conduct.

    158

            Next, plaintiff asserts that it has suffered injury aside from the physical impact of defendants' messages on its equipment. Restatement § 218(d) also indicates that recovery may be had for a trespass that causes

    160

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    harm to something in which the possessor has a legally protected interest. Plaintiff asserts that defendants' messages are largely unwanted by its subscribers, who pay incrementally to access their e-mail, read it, and discard it. Also, the receipt of a bundle of unsolicited messages at once can require the subscriber to sift through, at his expense, all of the messages in order to find the ones he wanted or expected to receive. These inconveniences decrease the utility of CompuServe's e-mail service and are the foremost subject in recent complaints from CompuServe subscribers. Patrick Hole, a customer service manager for plaintiff, states by affidavit that in November 1996 CompuServe received approximately 9,970 e-mail complaints from subscribers about junk e-mail, a figure up from approximately two hundred complaints the previous year. (Hole 2d Supp. Dec. at ¶ 4). Approximately fifty such complaints per day specifically reference defendants. (Hole Supp. Dec. at ¶ 3). Defendants contend that CompuServe subscribers are provided with a simple procedure to remove themselves from the mailing list. However, the removal procedure must be performed by the e-mail recipient at his expense, and some CompuServe subscribers complain that the procedure is inadequate and ineffectual. (See, e.g., Hole Supp. Dec. at ¶ 8).

    164

            Many subscribers have terminated their accounts specifically because of the unwanted receipt of bulk e-mail messages. (Hole Supp. Dec. at ¶ 9, Hole 2d Supp. Dec. at ¶ 6). Defendants' intrusions into CompuServe's computer systems, insofar as they harm plaintiff's business reputation and goodwill with its customers, are actionable under Restatement § 218(d).

    166

            The reason that the tort of trespass to chattels requires some actual damage as a prima facie element, whereas damage is assumed where there is a trespass to real property, can be explained as follows:

    168

            The interest of a possessor of a chattel in its inviolability, unlike the similar interest of a possessor of land, is not given legal protection by an action for nominal damages for harmless intermeddlings with the chattel. In order that an actor who interferes with another's chattel may be liable, his conduct must affect some other and more important interest of the possessor. Therefore, one who intentionally intermeddles with another's chattel is subject to liability only if his intermeddling is harmful to the possessor's materially valuable interest in the physical condition, quality, or value of the chattel, or if the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or some other legally protected interest of the possessor is affected as stated in Clause (c). Sufficient legal protection of the possessor's interest in the mere inviolability of his chattel is afforded by his privilege to use reasonable force to protect his possession against even harmless interference.

    170

            Restatement (Second) of Torts § 218, Comment e (emphasis added). Plaintiff CompuServe has attempted to exercise this privilege to protect its computer systems. However, defendants' persistent affirmative efforts to evade plaintiff's security measures have circumvented any protection those self-help measures might have provided. In this case CompuServe has alleged and supported by affidavit that it has suffered several types of injury as a result of defendants' conduct. The foregoing discussion simply underscores that the damage sustained by plaintiff is sufficient to sustain an action for trespass to chattels. However, this Court also notes that the implementation of technological means of self-help, to the extent that reasonable measures are effective, is particularly appropriate in this type of situation and should be exhausted before legal action is proper.

    172

            Under Restatement § 252, the owner of personal property can create a privilege in the would-be trespasser by granting consent to use the property. A great portion of the utility of CompuServe's e-mail service is that it allows subscribers to receive messages from individuals and entities located anywhere on the Internet. Certainly, then, there is at least a tacit invitation for anyone on the Internet to utilize plaintiff's computer

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    equipment to send e-mail to its subscribers.2 Buchanan Marine, Inc. v. McCormack Sand Co., 743 F.Supp. 139 (E.D.N.Y.1990) (whether there is consent to community use is a material issue of fact in an action for trespass to chattels). However, in or around October 1995, CompuServe employee Jon Schmidt specifically told Mr. Wallace that he was "prohibited from using CompuServe's equipment to send his junk e-mail messages." (Schmidt Dec. at ¶ 5). There is apparently some factual dispute as to this point, but it is clear from the record that Mr. Wallace became aware at about this time that plaintiff did not want to receive messages from Cyber Promotions and that plaintiff was taking steps to block receipt of those messages. (Transcript of December 15, 1996 Hearing at 81-86).

    178

            Defendants argue that plaintiff made the business decision to connect to the Internet and that therefore it cannot now successfully maintain an action for trespass to chattels. Their argument is analogous to the argument that because an establishment invites the public to enter its property for business purposes, it cannot later restrict or revoke access to that property, a proposition which is erroneous under Ohio law. See, e.g., State v. Carriker, 5 Ohio App.2d 255, 214 N.E.2d 809 (1964) (the law in Ohio is that a business invitee's privilege to remain on the premises of another may be revoked upon the reasonable notification to leave by the owner or his agents); Allstate Ins. Co. v. U.S. Associates Realty, Inc., 11 Ohio App.3d 242, 464 N.E.2d 169 (1983) (notice of express restriction or limitation on invitation turns business invitee into trespasser). On or around October 1995, CompuServe notified defendants that it no longer consented to the use of its proprietary computer equipment. Defendants' continued use thereafter was a trespass. Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 252 and 892A(5); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 217, Comment f ("The actor may commit a new trespass by continuing an intermeddling which he has already begun, with or without the consent of the person in possession. Such intermeddling may persist after the other's consent, originally given, has been terminated."); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 217, Comment g.

    180

            Further, CompuServe expressly limits the consent it grants to Internet users to send e-mail to its proprietary computer systems by denying unauthorized parties the use of CompuServe equipment to send unsolicited electronic mail messages. (Kolehmainen Dec. at ¶ 2). This policy statement, posted by CompuServe online, states as follows:

    182

            Compuserve is a private online and communications services company. CompuServe does not permit its facilities to be used by unauthorized parties to process and store unsolicited e-mail. If an unauthorized party attempts to send unsolicited messages to e-mail addresses on a CompuServe service, Compuserve will take appropriate action to attempt to prevent those messages from being processed by CompuServe. Violations of CompuServe's policy prohibiting unsolicited e-mail should be reported to....

    184

            Id. at ¶¶ 2 and 3. Defendants Cyber Promotions, Inc. and its president Sanford Wallace have used plaintiff's equipment in a fashion that exceeds that consent. The use of personal property exceeding consent is a trespass. City of Amsterdam v. Daniel Goldreyer, Ltd., 882 F.Supp. 1273 (E.D.N.Y. 1995); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 256. It is arguable that CompuServe's policy statement, insofar as it may serve as a limitation upon the scope of its consent to the use of its computer equipment, may be insufficiently communicated to potential third-party users when it is merely posted at some location on the network. However, in the present case the record indicates that defendants were actually notified that they were using CompuServe's equipment in an unacceptable manner. To prove that a would-be trespasser acted with the intent required to support liability in tort it is crucial that defendant be placed on notice that he is trespassing.

    186

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            As a general matter, the public possesses a privilege to reasonably use the facilities of a public utility, Restatement (Second) of Torts § 259, but Internet service providers have been held not to be common carriers. Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services, Inc., 907 F.Supp. 1361 (N.D.Cal.1995). The definition of public utility status under Ohio law was recently articulated in A & B Refuse Disposers, Inc. v. Bd. Of Ravenna Township Trustees, 64 Ohio St.3d 385, 596 N.E.2d 423 (1992). The Ohio Supreme Court held that the determination of whether an entity is a "public utility" requires consideration of several factors relating to the "public service" and "public concern" characteristics of a public utility. Id. 596 N.E.2d at 426. The public service characteristic contemplates an entity which devotes an essential good or service to the general public which the public in turn has a legal right to demand or receive. Id. at 425. CompuServe's network, Internet access and electronic mail services are simply not essential to society. There are many alternative forms of communication which are customarily used for the same purposes. Further, only a minority of society at large has the equipment to send and receive e-mail messages via the Internet, and even fewer actually do. The second characteristic of a public utility contemplates an entity which conducts its operations in such manner as to be a matter of public concern, that is, a public utility normally occupies a monopolistic or ogopolistic position in the relevant marketplace. Id. at 425-426. Defendants estimate that plaintiff serves some five million Internet users worldwide. However, there are a number of major Internet service providers that have very large subscriber bases, and with a relatively minor capital investment, anyone can acquire the computer equipment necessary to provide Internet access services on a smaller scale. Furthermore, Internet users are not a "captive audience" to any single service provider, but can transfer from one service to another until they find one that best suits their needs. Finally, the Ohio Supreme Court made clear that a party asserting public utility status is required to support that assertion with evidence going to the relevant aforementioned factors. Id. 596 N.E.2d at 427. Defendants have not argued that CompuServe is a public utility, much less produced evidence tending to support such a conclusion. Therefore, CompuServe is not a public utility as that status is defined under Ohio law and defendants can not be said to enjoy a special privilege to use CompuServe's proprietary computer systems.

    190

            In response to the trespass claim, defendants argue that they have the right to continue to send unsolicited commercial e-mail to plaintiff's computer systems under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The United States Supreme Court has recognized that "the constitutional guarantee of free speech is a guarantee only against abridgement by government, federal or state." Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 513, 96 S.Ct. 1029, 1033, 47 L.Ed.2d 196 (1976). Indeed, the protection of the First Amendment is not a shield against "merely private conduct." Hurley v. Irish-American Gay Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557, ___, 115 S.Ct. 2338, 2344, 132 L.Ed.2d 487 (1995) (citation omitted).

    192

            Very recently, in an action filed by Cyber Promotions, Inc. against America Online, Inc. ("AOL") the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that AOL, a company selling services that are similar to those of CompuServe, is private actor. Cyber Promotions, Inc. v. American Online, Inc., 948 F.Supp. 436, 443-44 (E.D.Pa.1996). That case involved the question of whether Cyber Promotions had the First Amendment right to send unobstructed e-mail to AOL subscribers. The court held that Cyber Promotions had no such right and that, inter alia, AOL was not exercising powers that are traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the state, such as where a private company exercises municipal powers by running a company town. Id. at 442-43; Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004-05, 102 S.Ct. 2777, 2785-86, 73 L.Ed.2d 534 (1982); Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501, 66 S.Ct. 276, 90 L.Ed. 265 (1946).

    194

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    This Court agrees with the conclusions reached by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

    198

            In the present action, CompuServe is a private company. Moreover, the mere judicial enforcement of neutral trespass laws by the private owner of property does not alone render it a state actor. Rotunda & Nowak, Treatise on Constitutional Law § 16.3, 546 (West 1992). Defendants do not argue that CompuServe is anything other than a private actor. Instead, defendants urge that because CompuServe is so intimately involved in this new medium it might be subject to some special form of regulation. Defendants cite Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 65 S.Ct. 1416, 89 L.Ed. 2013 (1945), and Turner Broadcasting Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 114 S.Ct. 2445, 129 L.Ed.2d 497 (1994), which stand for the proposition that when a private actor has a certain quantum of control over a central avenue of communication, then the First Amendment might not prevent the government from enacting legislation requiring public access to private property. No such legislation yet exists that is applicable to CompuServe. Further, defendants' discussion concerning the extent to which the Internet may be regulated (or should be regulated) is irrelevant because no government entity has undertaken to regulate the Internet in a manner that is applicable to this action. Indeed, if there were some applicable statutory scheme in place this Court would not be required to apply paradigms of common law to the case at hand.

    200

            In Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, 407 U.S. 551, 92 S.Ct. 2219, 33 L.Ed.2d 131 (1972), protestors of the Vietnam War sought to pass out written materials in a private shopping center. Even though the customers of the shopping center were the intended recipients of the communication, the Supreme Court held that allowing the First Amendment to trump private property rights is unwarranted where there are adequate alternative avenues of communication. Id. at 567, 92 S.Ct. at 2228. The Supreme Court stated that:

    202

            Although ... the courts properly have shown a special solicitude for the guarantees of the First Amendment, this Court has never held that a trespasser or an uninvited guest may exercise general rights of free speech on property privately owned and used nondiscriminatorily for private purposes only.

    204

            Id. at 567-68, 92 S.Ct. at 2228 (emphasis added). Defendants in the present action have adequate alternative means of communication available to them. Not only are they free to send e-mail advertisements to those on the Internet who do not use CompuServe accounts, but they can communicate to CompuServe subscribers as well through online bulletin boards, web page advertisements, or facsimile transmissions, as well as through more conventional means such as the U.S. mail or telemarketing. Defendants' contention, referring to the low cost of the electronic mail medium, that there are no adequate alternative means of communication is unpersuasive. There is no constitutional requirement that the incremental cost of sending massive quantities of unsolicited advertisements must be borne by the recipients. The legal concept in Lloyd that private citizens are entitled to enforce laws of trespass against would-be communicators is applicable to this case.

    206

            Defendants assert that CompuServe has assumed the role of a postmaster, to whom all of the strictures of the First Amendment apply, and that to allow it to enjoy a legally protected interest in its computer equipment in this context is to license a form of censorship which violates the First Amendment. However, such an assertion must be accompanied by a showing that CompuServe is a state actor. As earlier mentioned, defendants have neither specifically argued this point nor provided any evidence to support it. CompuServe is entitled to restrict access to its private property.

    208

            "The First and Fourteenth Amendments have never been treated as absolutes. Freedom of speech or press does not mean that one can talk or distribute where, when and how one chooses." Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 642, 71 S.Ct. 920, 932, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951) (upholding local ordinances banning commercial solicitations over First Amendment objections) (footnote omitted). In Rowan v. U.S. Post Office Dept., 397 U.S.

    210

    Page 1027

    212

    728, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 25 L.Ed.2d 736 (1970) the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment did not forbid federal legislation that allowed addressees to remove themselves from mailing lists and stop all future mailings. The Court stated that the "mailer's right to communicate must stop at the mailbox of an unreceptive addressee .... [t]o hold less would be to license a form of trespass[.]" Id. at 736-37, 90 S.Ct. at 1490.

    214

            In Tillman v. Distribution Sys. Of America, Inc., 224 A.D.2d 79, 648 N.Y.S.2d 630 (1996) the plaintiff complained that the defendant continued to throw newspapers on his property after being warned not to do so. The court held that the defendant newspaper distributor had no First Amendment right to continue to throw newspapers onto the property of the plaintiff. After discussing the Supreme Court cases of Rowan and Breard, supra, the court pointed out that:

    216

            The most critical and fundamental distinction between the cases cited above, on the one hand, and the present case, on the other, is based on the fact that here we are not dealing with a government agency which seeks to preempt in some way the ability of a publisher to contact a potential reader; rather, we are dealing with a reader who is familiar with a publisher's product, and who is attempting to prevent the unwanted dumping of this product on his property. None of the cases cited by the defendants stands for the proposition that the Free Speech Clause prohibits such a landowner from resorting to his common-law remedies in order to prevent such unwanted dumping. There is, in our view, nothing in either the Federal or State Constitutions which requires a landowner to tolerate a trespass whenever the trespasser is a speaker, or the distributor of written speech, who is unsatisfied with the fora which may be available on public property, and who thus attempts to carry his message to private property against the will of the owner.

    218

            Id. 648 N.Y.S.2d at 635. The court concluded, relying on Lloyd, supra, that the property rights of the private owner could not be overwhelmed by the First Amendment. Id. 648 N.Y.S.2d at 636.

    220

            In the present case, plaintiff is physically the recipient of the defendants' messages and is the owner of the property upon which the transgression is occurring. As has been discussed, plaintiff is not a government agency or state actor which seeks to preempt defendants' ability to communicate but is instead a private actor trying to tailor the nuances of its service to provide the maximum utility to its customers.

    222

            Defendants' intentional use of plaintiff's proprietary computer equipment exceeds plaintiff's consent and, indeed, continued after repeated demands that defendants cease. Such use is an actionable trespass to plaintiff's chattel. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides no defense for such conduct.

    224

            Plaintiff has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits which is sufficient to warrant the issuance of the preliminary injunction it has requested.

    226

            As already discussed at some length, plaintiff has submitted affidavits supporting its contention that it will suffer irreparable harm without the grant of the preliminary injunction. As an initial matter, it is important to point out that the Court may accept affidavits as evidence of irreparable harm. Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 507 F.2d 1281, 1287 (8th Cir.1974); see generally Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2949, at 218-220 (West 1995). Defendants suggest that there are other reasons why CompuServe subscribers terminate their accounts, but do not offer any evidence which contradicts plaintiff's affidavits.

    228

            Normally, a preliminary injunction is not appropriate where an ultimate award of monetary damages will suffice. Montgomery v. Carr, 848 F.Supp. 770 (S.D.Ohio 1993). However, money damages are only adequate if they can be reasonably computed and collected. Plaintiff has demonstrated that defendants' intrusions into their computer systems harm plaintiff's business reputation and goodwill. This is the sort of injury that warrants the issuance of a preliminary injunction because the actual loss

    230

    Page 1028

    232

    is impossible to compute. Basicomputer Corp. v. Scott, 973 F.2d 507 (6th Cir.1992); Economou v. Physicians Weight Loss Centers of America, 756 F.Supp. 1024 (N.D.Ohio 1991).

    234

            Plaintiff has shown that it will suffer irreparable harm without the grant of the preliminary injunction.

    236

            It is improbable that granting the injunction will cause substantial harm to defendant. Even with the grant of this injunction, defendants are free to disseminate their advertisements in other ways not constituting trespass to plaintiff's computer equipment. Further, defendants may continue to send electronic mail messages to the tens of millions of Internet users who are not connected through CompuServe's computer systems.

    238

            Finally, the public interest is advanced by the Court's protection of the common law rights of individuals and entities to their personal property. Defendants raise First Amendment concerns and argue that an injunction will adversely impact the public interest. High volumes of junk e-mail devour computer processing and storage capacity, slow down data transfer between computers over the Internet by congesting the electronic paths through which the messages travel, and cause recipients to spend time and money wading through messages that they do not want. It is ironic that if defendants were to prevail on their First Amendment arguments, the viability of electronic mail as an effective means of communication for the rest of society would be put at risk. In light of the foregoing discussion, those arguments are without merit. Further, those subscribing to CompuServe are not injured by the issuance of this injunction. Plaintiff has made a business decision to forbid Cyber Promotions and Mr. Wallace from using its computers to transmit messages to CompuServe subscribers. If CompuServe subscribers are unhappy with that decision, then they may make that known, perhaps by terminating their accounts and transferring to an Internet service provider which accepts unsolicited e-mail advertisements. That is a business risk which plaintiff has assumed.

    240

            Having considered the relevant factors, this Court concludes that the preliminary injunction that plaintiff requests is appropriate.

    243
    V.
    245

            Based on the foregoing, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is GRANTED. The temporary restraining order filed on October 24, 1996 by this Court is hereby extended in duration until final judgment is entered in this case. Further, defendants Cyber Promotions, Inc. and its president Sanford Wallace are enjoined from sending any unsolicited advertisements to any electronic mail address maintained by plaintiff CompuServe during the pendency of this action.

    247

            It is so ORDERED.

    249

    ---------------

    251 252

    Notes:

    255

    1. This term is derived from a skit performed on the British television show Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which the word "spam" is repeated to the point of absurdity in a restaurant menu.

    258

    2. That consent is apparently subject to express limitations. See Kolehmainen Dec. at ¶ 2 and discussion infra.

    260

    ---------------

  • 4 V. Intel Corp. v. Hamidi (Court of Appeal)--"The Critical Emails Case"

    Should tort law protect against a company's loss of productivity due to unsolicited emails?

    1
    114 Cal.Rptr.2d 244 (2001)
    3
    94 Cal.App.4th 325
    5
    INTEL CORPORATION, Plaintiff and Respondent,
    v.
    Kourosh Kenneth HAMIDI, Defendant and Appellant.
    7
    No. C033076.
    9

    Court of Appeal, Third District.

    11
    December 10, 2001.
    13
    Review Granted March 27, 2002.
    15

    246*246 Philip H. Weber, Placerville, for Defendant and Appellant.

    17

    Ann Brick for American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California; Christopher A. Hansen for American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York; and Deborah Pierce for Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amici Curiae for Defendant and Appellant.

    19

    Morrison & Foerster, Linda E. Shostak, Michael A. Jacobs, San Francisco, and Kurt E. Springmann, San Diego, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

    21

    245*245 MORRISON, J.

    23

    After Kourosh Kenneth Hamidi was fired by Intel Corporation, he began to air grievances about the company. Hamidi repeatedly flooded Intel's e-mail system. When its security department was unable to block or otherwise end Hamidi's mass emails, Intel filed this action. The trial court issued a permanent injunction stopping the campaign, on a theory of trespass to chattels.

    25

    On appeal Hamidi, supported by Amici Curiae Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), urges trespass to chattels was not proven and, even if it was, the injunction violates free speech principles which require the elements of the tort be tempered in cases involving speech. We shall affirm.

    28
    FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
    30

    Intel filed a brief complaint, alleging it maintains an internal, proprietary, e-mail system for use of its employees; the e-mail addresses are confidential; defendant Hamidi and FACE-Intel (Former and Current Employees of Intel, a defaulting party which did not appeal) obtained Intel's e-mail address list and on several occasions sent e-mail to up to 29,000 employees; on March 17, 1998, Intel sent a letter demanding Hamidi stop, but he refused. The complaint sought remedies based on theories of nuisance and trespass to chattels.

    32

    Intel moved for summary judgment and submitted a set of undisputed facts which Hamidi did not dispute. They establish: Hamidi is the FACE-Intel webmaster and spokesperson. He sent e-mails to between 8,000 and 35,000 Intel employees on six specific occasions. He ignored Intel's request to stop and took steps to evade its security measures. Intel's employees "spend significant amounts of time attempting to block and remove HAMIDI's e-mail from the INTEL computer systems," which are governed by policies which "limit use of the e-mail system to company business."

    34

    Hamidi filed a declaration in opposition to summary judgment, explaining "FACE-INTEL was formed to provide a medium for INTEL employees to air their grievances and concerns over employment conditions at INTEL. FACE-INTEL provides an extremely important forum for employees within an international corporation to communicate via a web page on the 247*247 Internet and via electronic mail, on common labor issues, that, due to geographical and other limitations, would not otherwise be possible." His six mass e-mailings "did not originate on INTEL property, nor were they sent to INTEL property. The electronic mails were sent over the internet to an internet server. [¶] With each of the electronic mailings [he] informed each recipient that [he] would remove them from the mailing list upon request. [He] only received 450 requests[.]"

    36

    Intel dropped its nuisance theory and claim for damages, and the trial court granted summary judgment. It issued an injunction that "defendants, their agents, servants, assigns, employees, officers, directors, and all those acting in concert for or with defendants are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from sending unsolicited e-mail to addresses on INTEL's computer systems." Hamidi timely appealed.

    39
    STANDARD OF REVIEW
    41

    We review the judgment de nov o. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 860, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 24 P.3d 493; Jackson v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1830, 1836, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 913; see Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c) & subd. (o)(2).)

    44
    DISCUSSION

    47
    I. Intel Proved Hamidi Trespassed to its Chattels
    49

    The common law adapts to human endeavor. For example, if rules developed through judicial decisions for railroads prove nonsensical for automobiles, courts have the ability and duty to change them. (See generally, Keller, Condemned to Repeat the Past: The Reemergence of Misappropriation and other Common Law Theories of Protection for Intellectual Property (1998) 11 Harv.J.L. & Tech. 401, 403-406, 423-26.)

    51

    Trespass to chattels is somewhat arcane and suffers from desuetude. "The chief importance of the theory today, according to Prosser, is that there may be recovery for interferences with the possession of personal property that are not sufficiently important to be classed as conversion, i.e., as a `little brother of conversion.'" (5 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (9th ed.1988, 1999 Supp.) Torts, § 627A, p. 390; see id., § 610, pp. 707-708.) However, the tort has reemerged as an important rule of cyberspace.

    53

    We begin with Prosser, who explains: "The earliest cases in which the action of trespass was applied to chattels involved asportation, or carrying off, and a special form of the writ, known as trespass de bonis asportatis, was devised to deal with such situations. Later the action was extended to include cases where the goods were damaged but not taken—as where animals were killed or beaten. Later decisions extended the tort to include any direct and immediate intentional interference with a chattel in the possession of another. Thus it is a trespass to damage goods or destroy them, to make an unpermitted use of them, or to move them from one place to another." (Prosser and Keeton, Torts (5th ed. 1984) Trespass to Chattels, § 14, p. 85, fns. omitted.)

    55

    Although there was litigation over who could bring suit and over formal pleading requirements, the shape of the tort is simple. A leading American court approved this definition: "1. To constitute a trespass, there must be a disturbance of the plaintiffs possession. 2. The disturbance may be by an actual taking, a physical seizing or taking hold of the goods, removing them from their owner, or by exercising a control or authority over them inconsistent with their owner's possession." 248*248 (Holmes v. Doane (1855) 69 Mass. 328, 329.) The most common application is for a physical taking, even if momentary. (See Tubbs v. Delk (Mo.Ct.App.1996) 932 S.W.2d 454 [taking camera for five minutes, returning it with film intact].)

    57

    The Restatement is in accord, providing "A trespass to a chattel may be committed by intentionally ... (b) using or intermeddling with a chattel in the possession of another." (Rest.2d Torts, § 217, p. 417.) Most cases involve concrete harm to a chattel, "actual impairment of its physical condition, quality or value to the possessor ... as distinguished from the mere affront to [the owner's] dignity as possessor[.]" (§ 218, com. h, p. 422 [allowing some exceptions, such as use of another's toothbrush].)

    59

    The Restatement also provides "The interest of a possessor of a chattel in its inviolability, unlike the similar interest of a possessor of land, is not given legal protection by an action for nominal damages for harmless intermeddlings with the chattel. In order that an actor who interferes with another's chattel may be liable, his conduct must affect some other and more important interest of the possessor. Therefore, one who intentionally intermeddles with another's chattel is subject to liability only if his intermeddling is harmful to the possessor's materially valuable interest in the physical condition, quality, or value of the chattel, or if the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or some other legally protected interest [is harmed.] Sufficient legal protection of the possessor's interest in the mere inviolability of his chattel is afforded by his privilege to use reasonable force to protect his possession against even harmless interference. ... [¶] Illustration: [¶] 2. A, a child, climbs upon the back of B's large dog and pulls its ears. No harm is done to the dog, or to any other legally protected interest of B. A is not liable to B." (§ 218, com. e, pp. 421-422; see Glidden v. Szybiak (1949) 95 N.H. 318, 320, 63 A.2d 233, 235.) This caveat speaks of "nominal damages." Intel does not seek damages, even nominal damages, to compensate for Hamidi's conduct; Intel wants to prevent him from repeating his conduct. In this case, the nature of the remedy sought colors the analysis.

    61

    "Originally, all types of trespass, including trespass to land, were punishable under the criminal law because the trespasser's conduct was regarded as a breach of the peace. When the criminal and civil aspects of trespass were separated, the civil action for trespass was colored by its past, and the idea that the peace of the community was put in danger by the trespasser's conduct influenced the courts' ideas of the character of the tort. Therefore, relief was granted to the plaintiff where he was not actually damaged, partly, at least, as a means of discouraging disruptive influences in the community. If then, there is an act on the part of the defendant interfering with the plaintiffs possession, which does or is likely to result in arousing conflict between them, that act will characterize the tort as a trespass, assuming of course that the other elements of the tort are made out." (7 Speiser et al, American Law of Torts (1990) Trespass, § 23:1, p. 592 (Speiser).)

    63

    The treatise just quoted states "As a number of very early cases show, any unlawful interference, however slight, with the enjoyment by another of his personal property, is a trespass." (Speiser, supra, § 23:23, p. 667.) The oldest case cited is Rand v. Sargent (1843) 23 Me. 326. Actually, "chasing cattle has been a trespass time out of mind" (Winfield & Jolowicz on Tort (10th ed. 1975) Trespass to Goods, p. 403), or at least since Jacobean times. (Farmer v. Hunt (1610) 1 Brown. & 249*249 Gold. 220 [123 Eng. Rep. 766]; see 1 Chitty on Pleading (7th Ed. [16th Amer. Ed.] 1876) Trespass, p. *193 ["hunting or chasing sheep, & c."].)

    65

    "A trespass to chattels is actionable per se without any proof of actual damage. Any unauthorised touching or moving of a chattel is actionable at the suit of the possessor of it, even though no harm ensues. So it is a trespass for a shop assistant to snatch a customer's handbag and detain it `for a few moments,' or to erase a tape-recording, or to show a private letter to an unauthorised person.... It may be very necessary for the protection of certain kinds of property, e.g., museum or art gallery exhibits, that this should be the law. Hence, the successful plaintiff will always be entitled to nominal damages at least[.]" (Salmond on Tort (21st ed. 1996) Trespass to Goods, § 6 .2, p. 95, fns. omitted.) Another treatise agrees that "any unpermitted contact with or impact upon another's chattel" is enough, but comments "Probably the courts will hold that direct and deliberate interference is trespass even if no damage ensues, but where the interference is by way of negligent or inadvertent contact, the general trend of recent judicial decisions and dicta in England suggest that there is a requirement of proof of special damage[.]" (Clerk & Lindsell on Torts (17th ed. 1995) Trespass, ¶ 13-159, p. 703, italics added; see Fleming, Law of Torts (9th ed.1998) Intentional Interference with Chattels, pp. 58-59 [questioning rule, but suggesting damage "however slight," would suffice, and acknowledging mere use of another's goods sufficed].)

    67

    As indicated, some confusion in the cases and treatises disappears when the nature of the remedy is considered. We accept that "The plaintiff, in order to recover more than nominal damages, must prove the value of the property taken, or that he has sustained some special damage." (1 Waterman, Trespass (1875) Remedy for Wrongful Taking of Property, § 596, p. 617; see Lay v. Bayless (1867) 44 Tenn. 246, 247; Warner v. Capps (1881) 37 Ark. 32.) Intel seeks no damages.

    69

    Hamidi's conduct was trespassory. Even assuming Intel has not demonstrated sufficient "harm" to trigger entitlement to nominal damages for past breaches of decorum by Hamidi, it showed he was disrupting its business by using its property and therefore is entitled to injunctive relief based on a theory of trespass to chattels. Hamidi acknowledges Intel's right to self help and urges Intel could take further steps to fend off his emails. He has shown he will try to evade Intel's security. We conceive of no public benefit from this wasteful cat-and-mouse game which justifies depriving Intel of an injunction. (Cf. America Online, Inc. v. Nat. Health Care Discount, Inc. (N.D.Iowa 2000) 121 F.Supp.2d 1255, 1259-1260 [detailing ongoing technological struggle between spammers and system operators].) Even where a company cannot precisely measure the harm caused by an unwelcome intrusion, the fact the intrusion occurs supports a claim for trespass to chattels. (See Register.com, Inc. v. Verio, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.2000) 126 F.Supp.2d 238, 249-250 [applying New York law, based on the Restatement, "evidence of mere possessory interference is sufficient to demonstrate the quantum of harm necessary to establish a claim for trespass to chattels"].)

    71

    Some commentators espouse the view that "cyberspace," as they term it, is necessarily free and open, minimizing the harm caused to Intel's business. (E.g., Comment, Developments—the Law of Cyberspace (1999) 112 Harv.L.Rev. 1574, 1633, fn. 137.) And Amicus ACLU urges "Harm flowing from the content of the 250*250 communication may not form the basis for an action for trespass to chattel." But Intel proved more than its displeasure with Hamidi's message, it showed it was hurt by the loss of productivity caused by the thousands of employees distracted from their work and by the time its security department spent trying to halt the distractions after Hamidi refused to respect Intel's request to stop invading its internal, proprietary e-mail system by sending unwanted e-mails to thousands of Intel's employees on the system. (See Hotmail Corporation v. Van$ Money Pie, Inc. (N.D.Cal.1998) 47 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA 1020, 1025, ¶ 39, 1998 WL 388389, at p. *7 (Hotmail) [trespass caused "added costs for personnel"].)

    73

    "`Intermeddling' means intentionally bringing about a physical contact with the chattel." (Rest.2d Torts, § 217, com. e, p. 419.) "Electronic signals generated and sent by computer have been held to be sufficiently physically tangible to support a trespass cause of action. [Citations.] It is undisputed that plaintiff has a possessory interest in its computer systems. Further, defendants' contact with plaintiffs computers is clearly intentional. Although electronic messages may travel through the Internet over various routes, the messages are affirmatively directed to their destination ." (CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions Inc. (S.D.Ohio 1997) 962 F.Supp. 1015, 1021 (CompuServe).) "[A]ny value CompuServe realizes from its computer equipment is wholly derived from the extent to which that equipment can service its subscriber base.... To the extent that defendants' multitudinous electronic mailings demand the disk space and drain the processing power of plaintiffs computer equipment, those resources are not available to serve CompuServe subscribers. Therefore, the value of that equipment to CompuServe is diminished even though it is not physically damaged by defendants' conduct." (Id. at p. 1022.)

    75

    Amicus ACLU seeks to distinguish CompuServe on the ground the conduct "placed `a tremendous burden' on CompuServe's equipment thus depriving Compu-Serve of the full use of its equipment." Elsewhere in its brief, ACLU states Hamidi did not send "a large number of e-mails. All in all, he sent a total of only six e-mails over a period spanning close to two years." Similarly, Amicus EFF states: "Assuming the veracity of Intel's allegations, on six occasions over a nearly two-year period, many Intel employees simply had one additional e-mail from Mr. Hamidi sitting in their in boxes when they came to work in the morning. This hardly constitutes physical disruption to Intel's computer system." Amici discount disruption to Intel's business system, inasmuch as the thousands of employees had to confront, read, and delete the messages even if only to tell Hamidi to send them no more, as several hundred did.

    77

    EFF states if such loss of productivity "is the applicable standard [of harm], then every personal e-mail that an employee reads at work could constitute a trespass." The answer is, where the employer has told the sender the entry is unwanted and the sender persists, the employer's petition for redress is proper. Strangely, EFF, purporting to laud the "freedom" of the Internet, emphasizes Intel allows its employees reasonable personal use of Intel's equipment for sending and receiving personal e-mail. Such tolerance by employers would vanish if they had no way to limit such personal usage of company equipment.

    79

    CompuServe relied in part on Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468 (Thrifty-Tel). Thrifty-Tel held the unauthorized use of telephone access numbers, which "overburdened 251*251 the system, denying some subscribers access," (p. 1564, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468) was sufficient to support liability for actual monetary damages. The case did not state or imply that such an extreme effect was required to establish the tort. Thrifty-Tel noted: "At early common law, trespass required a physical touching of another's chattel or entry onto another's land. The modern rule recognizes an indirect touching or entry; e.g., dust particles from a cement plant that migrate onto another's real and personal property may give rise to trespass. [Citing, inter alia, Wilson v. Interlake Steel Co. (1982) 32 Cal.3d 229, 185 Cal.Rptr. 280, 649 P.2d 922 (Wilson).] But the requirement of a tangible [trespass] has been relaxed almost to the point of being discarded. Thus, some courts have held that microscopic particles [citation] or smoke [citation] may give rise to trespass. And the California Supreme Court has intimated migrating intangibles (e.g., sound waves) may result in a trespass, provided they do not simply impede an owner's use or enjoyment of property, but cause damage. [Citing Wilson.] In our view, the electronic signals generated by the Bezenek boys' activities were sufficiently tangible to support a trespass cause of action." (46 Cal. App.4th at p. 1566, fn. 6, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468.) We agree.

    81

    Amicus EFF suggests Thrifty-Tel, supra, 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468 is based on the view "physical damages or physical disruption, even if temporary," "gives the `electronic signal' a sufficiently tangible quality to suppoit a cause of action for trespass," and Intel has not shown Hamidi's e-mails caused physical disruption. This is not so for two reasons. First, the footnote just quoted makes it plain that the electronic signal is "sufficiently tangible to support a trespass cause of action." The tangibility of the contact is not dependent on the harm caused. Second, Hamidi's e-mails caused disruption to Intel's workers, who were drawn away from their jobs to deal with the messages. If EFF is saying Hamidi can flood Intel's system to the penultimate extent before causing a computer crash, we disagree.

    83

    Hamidi insists this view of the Thrifty-Tel decision (supra, 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468) has been undermined by a subsequent California Supreme Court case, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1996) 13 Cal.4th 893, 55 Cal.Rptr.2d 724, 920 P.2d 669 (San Diego Gas). We disagree. San Diego Gas held a civil action claiming damages from electromagnetic radiation emanating from power lines would not lie, as such a suit would trench on the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission. The plaintiffs effectively abandoned their claim of personal injury, based on a fear of cancer, but pursued a trespass claim. (Id. at p. 935, 55 Cal.Rptr.2d 724, 920 P.2d 669.) The court reiterated the rule stated by the late Justice Frank K. Richardson, as follows: "`Noise alone, without damage to the property, will not support a tort action for trespass. Recovery allowed in prior trespass actions predicated upon noise, gas emissions, or vibration intrusions has, in each instance, been predicated upon the deposit of particulate matter upon the plaintiffs' property or on actual physical damage thereto. [Citations.] [¶] All intangible intrusions, such as noise, odor, or light alone, are dealt with as nuisance cases, not trespass. [Citations.] [¶] Succinctly stated, the rule is that actionable trespass may not be predicated upon nondamaging noise, odor, or light intrusion. ...'" (Id. at p. 936, 55 Cal.Rptr.2d 724, 920 P.2d 669, quoting Wilson, supra, 32 Cal.3d 229, 185 Cal.Rptr. 280, 649 P.2d 922.) Wilson and San Diego Gas involved claims of damage to realty, not chattels. Most importantly, San Diego Gas, quoting 252*252 from Wilson, spoke of "nondamaging" intrusions. In other words, it did not hold that the electromagnetic waves did not contact the land. Cases are not authority for points not considered. (Hart v. Burnett (1860) 15 Cal. 530, 598.)

    85

    In America Online, Inc. v. IMS (E.D.Va.1998) 24 F.Supp.2d 548, IMS "sent unauthorized bulk e-mail advertisements (`spam') to AOL subscribers," even after AOL (America Online) told IMS to stop. (Id. at p. 549.) Applying the common law of Virginia, the court granted summary judgment to AOL on its claim of trespass to chattels. The court relied in part on CompuServe to conclude AOL was harmed by the time spent processing the unwanted e-mail, and the burden to the computer equipment it caused. (Id. at p. 550; accord America Online, Inc. v. GreatDeals.Net (E.D.Va.1999) 49 F.Supp.2d 851, 864 .) In America Online, Inc. v. LCGM, Inc. (E.D.Va.1998) 46 F.Supp.2d 444, another judge of the same court held (at page 452): "The transmission of electrical signals through a computer network is sufficiently `physical' contact to constitute a trespass to property."

    87

    Quite recently, a California federal court reached a similar conclusion in eBay Inc. v. Bidder's Edge, Inc. (N.D.Cal.2000) 100 F.Supp.2d 1058, 1071: "Even if, as BE argues, its searches use only a small amount of eBay's computer system capacity, BE has nonetheless deprived eBay of the ability to use that portion of its personal property for its own purposes. The law recognizes no such right to use another's personal property."

    89

    Hamidi and EFF ask, if unwanted email can constitute a trespass, why isn't unwanted first-class mail a trespass? "`[T]he short, though regular journey from mailbox to trash can ... is an acceptable burden, at least as far as the Constitution is concerned.'" (Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp. (1983) 463 U.S. 60, 72, 103 S.Ct. 2875, 2883, 77 L.Ed.2d 469, 481 [held, law against use of mail for advertising contraceptives invalid].) The issue is one of degree. As Hamidi impliedly concedes, he could not lawfully cause Intel's computers to crash, or overwhelm the system so that Intel's employees were unable to use the computer system. (See Hotmail, supra, 47 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) at p. 1025, ¶ 39, 1998 WL 388389, at p. *7 [threat to "fill[ ] up Hotmail's computer storage space and ... damage Hotmail's ability to service its legitimate customers"].) Nor could a person send thousands of unwanted letters to a company, nor make thousands of unwelcome telephone calls. (See Rowan v. United States Post Office (1970) 397 U.S. 728, 736-737, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 1490-1491, 25 L.Ed.2d 736, 743 [upholding statute allowing blocking of mail, "Everyman's mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know"; "To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass"].)

    91

    At oral argument counsel referred to Business and Professions Code section 17538.4, which prohibits entities from barraging a person or company with unwanted commercial e-mails. The statute shows the Legislature recognizes the distraction and harm caused by unwanted electronic communications. Nothing in the statute suggests any intent to eliminate the application of common law remedies, such as trespass to chattels, to electronic communications, nor to limit common law remedies to cases of commercial speech.

    93

    We conclude the summary judgment moving papers demonstrated Intel's entitlement to an injunction based on a theory of trespass to chattels.

    96
    II. The Injunction Comports with the Federal Constitution
    98

    Hamidi and Amici insist the injunction runs afoul of the First Amendment. 253*253 In like manner as the First Amendment trumps a state's power to make and enforce defamation torts (e.g., New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686 (Sullivan)) they urge it governs a state's power to enjoin emails. This lawsuit does not implicate federal constitutional rights, for lack of state action.

    100

    Sullivan famously held "actual malice" was an element of the tort of libel—as a matter of federal constitutional law—in a case where a political figure sued a newspaper. Sullivan pits common law rights protecting reputation against the constitutional right of a newspaper to publish. In a trespass case, however, the speaker's rights are pitted against a property owner's rights—of at least equal constitutional force—to wisely govern his lands (or, in this case, his chattels). The equation is different. (376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686.)

    102

    "[T]he First Amendment protects individuals only against government, not private, infringements upon free speech rights." (George v. Pacific-CSC Work Furlough (9th Cir.1996) 91 F.3d 1227, 1229.) When individuals seek protection for expressive rights, the "courts must first determine whether it is indeed government action—state or federal—that the litigants are challenging." (Tribe, American Constitutional Law (2d ed. 1988) The Problem of State Action, § 18-1, p. 1688 (Tribe).) The case law is muddled. (See id., at p. 1690.) However, in some cases, including speech cases, a state-court decision in a suit between private litigants implicates federal concerns and "there seems little doubt that judges are government actors and that judicial remedies are state action." (Chemerinsky, State Action (1999) 618 PLI/Lit 183, 209 (Chemerinsky).)

    104

    Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) 334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161 (Shelley), held judicial enforcement of racially restrictive real property covenants was state action. "[B]ut for the active intervention of the state courts, supported by the full panoply of state power, petitioners would have been free to occupy the properties in question without restraint." (Id. at p. 19, 68 S.Ct. at p. 844, 92 L.Ed at p. 1183.) The principle was applied to a speech case in Sullivan, which stated it "matters not that law has been applied in a civil action.... The test is not the form in which state power has been applied but, whatever the form, whether such power has in fact been exercised." (376 U.S. at p. 265, 84 S.Ct. at p. 718, 11 L.Ed.2d at p. 697.)

    106

    But the Shelley reasoning (334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161) "consistently applied, would require individuals to conform their private agreements to constitutional standards whenever, as almost always, the individuals might later seek the security of potential judicial enforcement." (Tribe, supra, § 18-1 at p. 1697.) Such application would erode the distinction between public and private action. Thus, "Shelley remains controversial because ultimately everything can be made state action under it. If any decision by a state court represents state action, then ultimately all private actions must comply with the Constitution.... All private [suits for] violations of rights exist because state law allows them. It is difficult to imagine anything that cannot potentially be transformed into state action under this reasoning, [¶] The Court, of course, never has taken Shelley this far, but nor has it articulated any clear limiting principles." (Chemerinsky, supra, 618 PLI/Lit at p. 210.)

    108

    We need not delve too far into the state action morass. Judicial enforcement of neutral trespass laws has been held not to 254*254 constitute state action. "[T]his Court has never held that a trespasser or an uninvited guest may exercise general rights of free speech on property privately owned and used nondiscriminatorily for private purposes only." (Lloyd v. Tanner (1972) 407 U.S. 551, 568, 92 S.Ct. 2219, 2228, 33 L.Ed.2d 131, 142 (Lloyd).) Lloyd vacated an injunction permitting war protesters to exercise speech rights at a private shopping center. The court rejected the assertion that private property took on public character because it had characteristics "functionally similar to facilities customarily provided by municipalities." (Id. at p. 569, 92 S.Ct. at p. 2229, 33 L.Ed.2d at p. 142.) This argument "reaches too far. The Constitution by no means requires such an attenuated doctrine of dedication of private property to public use." (Id. at p. 569, 92 S.Ct. at p. 2229, 33 L.Ed.2d at p. 143.)

    110

    Amicus ACLU suggests Lloyd, supra, 407 U.S. 551, 92 S.Ct. 2219, 33 L.Ed.2d 131, should be distinguished because the case declines rather than grants an injunction. But the court's act of declining an injunction to enable protestors to speak is functionally the same as granting an injunction preventing speech. (See Chemerinsky, supra, 618 PLI/Lit at p. 210 ["If the court dismisses the case because the state law does not forbid the violation, there is state action sustaining the infringement of the right, just as there would have been state action had the court dismissed the case in Shelley, [supra, 334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161]. All private violations of rights exist because state law allows them"]; see also Strickland, State Action Doctrine and the Rehnquist Court (1991) 18 Hastings Const. L.Q. 587, 606-607 ["Just as the creation and judicial application of law to grant judicial relief in civil litigation is state action, the state's decision to deny judicial or other intervention in private affairs is state action.... [T]he decision to deny relief, which is made by the state's official policymaking bodies, unquestionably is state action"].) Accordingly, the ability to use state trespass laws to enforce private property rights ... is irrelevant to the state action requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment. (International Socy. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Reber (C.D.Cal.1978) 454 F.Supp. 1385, 1388-1389; see Cape Cod Nursing Home v. Rambling Rose Rest Home (1st Cir.1981) 667 F.2d 238, 243 [police assistance in removing unwelcome guests does not create state action], followed by Radich v. Goode (3d Cir.1989) 886 F.2d 1391, 1398-1399.) As exclusivity is an attribute of private property, the owner may use the neutral trespass laws to enforce his decision so long as he has no other connection to state action. (2 Rotunda Nowak, Treatise on Constitutional Law (3d ed. 1999) State Action, 16.3, p. 786; cf. Comment, Maintaining Racial Segregation through State Criminal Trespass Actions (1963) 77 Harv. L.Rev. 127.)

    112

    Amicus ACLU cites cases which confer First Amendment protection in private tort actions, but they differ from the present case in that Hamidi was enjoined from trespassing onto Intels private property. (NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982) 458 U.S. 886, 102 S.Ct. 3409, 73 L.Ed.2d 1215 [boycott activity]; Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe (1971) 402 U.S. 415, 91 S.Ct. 1575/ 29 L.Ed.2d 1 (Keefe) [leafleting]; Blatty v. New York Times (1986) 42 Cal.3d 1033, 232 Cal.Rptr. 542, 728 P.2d 1177 [newspapers bestseller list]; Paradise Hills Associates v. Procel (1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 1528, 1 Cal.Rptr.2d 514 (Paradise Hills).) None of these cases hold the First Amendment permits trespassing. Paradise Hills reversed an injunction preventing a disgruntled homebuyer from protesting, but explains, had 255*255 she entered private property not open for public access, an injunction against such conduct would be appropriate. (Id. at p. 1547, 1 Cal.Rptr.2d 514.)

    114

    Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. (1991) 501 U.S. 663, 111 S.Ct. 2513, 115 L.Ed.2d 586, cited by Hamidi, involved a newspapers breach of promise to a source; liability was not precluded by the First Amendment. The case did not address trespass.

    116

    Recent cases involving unwanted commercial e-mail support our view. In Cyber Promotions v. American Online, Inc. (E.D.Pa.1996) 948 F.Supp. 436 (Cyber Promotions), the court found no state action when an online company obtained an injunction to prevent another company from sending commercial e-mail to its members. The court rejected the e-mail sender's position that "`the Court's participation with the litigant in issuing or enforcing an order which impinges on another's First Amendment rights'" amounted to state action. (Id. at pp. 444-45.) CompuServe, which upheld an injunction against a company sending unsolicited emails, held squarely: "the mere judicial enforcement of neutral trespass laws by the private owner of property does not alone render it a state actor." (CompuServe, supra, 962 F.Supp. at p. 1026, cited on this point with approval Golden Gateway Center v. Golden Gateway Tenants Assn. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1013, 1034 & fn. 14, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797 (plu.opn.) ["judicial enforcement of injunctive relief does not, by itself, constitute state action"] (Golden Gateway).) We agree.

    118

    At oral argument counsel asserted the California Supreme Court has held any judicial tort relief implicating expressive rights constitutes state action, relying on the following passage in Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn. (1988) 46 Cal.3d 1092 at page 1114, 252 Cal.Rptr. 122, 762 P.2d 46: "While judicial sanctioning of tort recovery constitutes state action sufficient to invoke the same constitutional protections applicable to statutes and other legislative actions [citing Sullivan], religious groups are not immune from all tort liability." That case involved claims by former cult members alleging that a religious group defrauded and falsely imprisoned them. The point of the passage just quoted was to emphasize that not all activities by religious groups are insulated from tort liability. Counsel's interpretation of the passage is tenable only if the language is divorced from its context.

    120

    For lack of state action the federal constitution is not implicated herein. Intel has the right to exclude others from speaking on its property. Intel is not required to exercise its right in a "content-neutral" fashion. Content discrimination is part of a private property-owner's bundle of rights. Intel does not welcome Hamidi.

    123
    III. The Injunction Comports with the State Constitution
    125

    Hamidi contends his right to send e-mail to Intel employees is protected by the California analog to the First Amendment, which provides "Every person may freely speak, write or publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press." (Cal. Const., art. I, 2, subd. (a).) This provision is "more definitive and inclusive than the First Amendment]" (Wilson v. Superior Court (1975) 13 Cal.3d 652, 658, 119 Cal.Rptr. 468, 532 P.2d 116.)

    127

    In a controversial 4-3 decision, over a vigorous dissent, the California Supreme Court held the free speech rights of students obtaining petition signatures trumped the right of the owner of a shopping center to exclude them. (Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center (1979) 23 256*256 Cal.3d 899, 153 Cal.Rptr. 854, 592 P.2d 341 (Robins), affd. sub nom. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980) 447 U.S. 74, 100 S.Ct. 2035, 64 L.Ed.2d 741.) Robins concluded the shopping center served as a "functional equivalent for the suburban counterpart of the traditional town center business block, where historically the publics First Amendment activity was exercised and its right to do so scrupulously guarded." (Planned Parenthood v. Wilson (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1662, 1670, 286 Cal.Rptr. 427 (Planned Parenthood).) Robins rejected contrary authority construing the First Amendment on similar facts. (Lloyd, supra, 407 U.S. 551, 92 S.Ct. 2219, 33 L.Ed.2d 131.) Even under Robins, a large shopping center may impose time, place and manner restrictions. (Union of Needletrades, etc. Employees v. Superior Court (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 996, 1009-1010, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 838.)

    129

    But, "[b]y no means do we imply that those who wish to disseminate ideas have free rein.... `It bears repeated emphasis that we do not have under consideration the property or privacy rights of an individual homeowner or the proprietor of a modest retail establishment.'" (Robins, supra, 23 Cal.3d at p. 910, 153 Cal.Rptr. 854, 592 P.2d 341.) Robins only diminishes a private property owners right to exclude others where the property "is generally open to the public and functions as the equivalent of a traditional public forum[.]" (Allred v. Harris (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1386, 1390, 18 Cal.Rptr.2d 530.)

    131

    The California Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the Robins holding. In Golden Gateway, supra, 26 Cal.4th 1013, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797, a majority concluded a large residential apartment complex could prevent its tenants from distributing leaflets within the complex. The plurality opinion of three justices would import the "state action" limitation into lawsuits based on the California Constitution's analog to the First Amendment. Three justices disagreed with this view and the Chief Justice declined to resolve the point. For our purposes we need not enter into that debate. Instead, we distill from Golden Gateway a holding which reaffirms the test employed in Robins. According to the plurality, "the actions of a private property owner constitute state action for purposes of California's free speech clause only if the property is freely and openly accessible to the public." (26 Cal.4th at p. 1033, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797.) Because the plurality concluded the complex was not freely and openly accessible to the public, it found no state action. The Chief Justice's opinion proceeds directly to the question whether the complex was "freely open" to the public and concluded it was not. (Id. at p. 1036, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797.) We perceive no semantic difference between "freely open" and "freely and openly accessible" to the public. Therefore actions to halt expressive activity on one's private property do not contravene the California Constitution unless the property is freely open to the public.

    133

    We recognize the open character of the Internet. "Although in its infancy, the Internet has already become a popular place of public discussion. Individuals from every part of American society visit and exchange ideas with others through various forums within cyberspace. The debate occurring in these forums in many ways embodies the Court's ideal of `uninhibited, robust, and wide-open' discussion." (Goldstone, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cyber Forum: Public v. Private in Cyberspace Speech (1998) 69 U. Colo. L.Rev. 1, 3.)

    135

    Private e-mail servers differ from the Internet; they are not traditional public 257*257 forums. (Cyber Promotions, supra, 948 F.Supp. at p. 446.) Nor is a private company which chooses to use e-mail made a public forum.

    137

    Although Intel is a large company, it is not like a Pruneyard Shopping Center, in that it is not a place where the public gathers to engage in expressive activity such as gathering signatures to petition the government, nor is its e-mail system so used. The Intel e-mail system is private property used for business purposes. Intel's system is not transformed into a public forum merely because it permits some personal use by employees. (See Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators Assn. (1983) 460 U.S. 37, 47, 103 S.Ct. 948, 956, 74 L.Ed.2d 794, 806 [limited access to outside organizations does not transform school mailbox system into a public forum].) Intel invites the public to use its e-mail system for and only for business purposes.

    139

    Hamidi insists Intel's act of connecting itself (and thus, its employees) to the Internet and giving its employees e-mail addresses makes Intel's e-mails a public forum. By the same reasoning, connecting one's realty to the general system of roads invites demonstrators to use the property as a public forum and buying a telephone is an invitation to receive thousands of unwanted calls. That is not the law. (CompuServe, supra, 962 F.Supp. at p. 1024; Cyber Promotions, supra, 948 F.Supp. at p. 442.) Intel is as much entitled to control its e-mail system as it is to guard its factories and hallways. No citizen has the general right to enter a private business and pester an employee trying to work. It may be a few unwanted e-mails would not be sufficient to trigger a court's equity powers. Indeed, such may be an inevitable, though regrettable, fact of modern life, like unwelcome junk mail and telephone solicitations. (See Cyber Promotions, Inc. v. Apex Global Information Svcs., Inc. (E.D.Pa.1997) 1997 WL 634384, p. *3 [bulk e-mail "annoying and intrusive"].) However, the massive size of Hamidi's campaign caused Intel much trouble, not the least of which was caused by the lost time of each employee who had to read or delete an unwanted message, either out of fear of a virus or a lack of desire to communicate with Hamidi. As we pointed out in another case, "When a camel's back is broken we need not weigh each straw in its load to see which one could have done the deed." (Woodland Joint Unified School Dist. v. Commission on Professional Competence (1992) 2 Cal. App.4th 1429, 1457, 4 Cal.Rptr.2d 227.)

    141

    Finally, Hamidi has many available alternate ways to reach his target audience. (Cf. Chico Feminist Women's Health Center v. Scully (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 230, 243-248, 256 Cal.Rptr. 194. Cf. also Golden Gateway, supra, 26 Cal. 4th at p. 1050, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797 (dis.opn.) [concluding use of mail and off-site distribution were not feasible alternatives to door-to-door leafleting].)

    143

    We may safely assume most, if not all, Intel employees can reach Hamidi's website, either from their homes or from libraries or cafés which provide Internet access. Hamidi concedes the Internet has become widely accessible and affordable, at least in the United States. Employees who cannot get on the Internet can correspond with Hamidi about issues of mutual concern. According to Hamidi's website, [as of Dec. 10, 2001], he has delivered many thousands of printed "e-mails" to Intel's headquarters by horse and buggy, both to communicate with its workers within the terms of the injunction, and to publicize this lawsuit. (See www.intelhamidi.com/seconddelivery.htm [as of Dec. 10, 2001]. See also Gaum, E-Mail Delivered by Horse-Mail, 258*258 S.F. Chron. (Sep. 29, 1999) p. B-2 ["Mounted as an outrider and dressed in a red shirt and star-spangled kerchief, Hamidi handed 16 boxes of messages to Intel security officials"].) Hamidi may freely exchange ideas with Intel or Intel workers. This highlights a critical factual misstatement in Hamidi's brief, that he has been enjoined "from sending e-mail over the internet to Intel employees." The injunction prohibits Hamidi "from sending unsolicited e-mails to addresses on INTEL's computer systems." Hamidi is free to send mail—"e" or otherwise—to the homes of Intel employees, and is free to send them regular mail. The injunction simply requires that Hamidi air his views without using Intel's private property.

    145

    The Chief Justice has cautioned that imposing a state action limitation on the free expression provisions of the California Constitution could allow a private actor "to censor or undermine what might be viewed as another individual's `core' free speech rights." (Golden Gateway, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 1042, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 336, 29 P.3d 797.) He poses the example of an employer forbidding employees from displaying union bumper stickers in the employer's parking lot. (Ibid.)

    147

    That is not this case. Although Intel's workers may communicate with each other and outsiders to air grievances, they do not have a "core" right to spend company time doing so, such as by laying aside their work in order to respond to Hamidi's emails. Tellingly, ACLU views the e-mails to be in the control of the employees: "The decision whether or not to continue receiving Hamidi's messages should be that of the employee, not Intel." Hamidi states "Hamidi's e-mails may have been uninvited by Intel management, but they were not directed to Intel management." Intel owns the e-mail system it provides to its workers as much as it owns the telephones and manufacturing equipment it provides. The ACLU's position would result in employers denying all personal access to the Internet, which is not a sensible outcome.

    149

    We conclude the injunction does not violate the California Constitution.

    152
    DISPOSITION
    154

    The judgment is affirmed.

    156

    I concur: SCOTLAND, P.J.

    158

    Dissenting Opinion of KOLKEY, J.

    160

    I respectfully dissent. The majority would apply the tort of trespass to chattel to the transmittal of unsolicited electronic mail that causes no harm to the private computer system that receives it by modifying the tort to dispense with any need for injury, or by deeming the mere reading of an unsolicited e-mail to constitute the requisite injury. (Maj. opn. at pp. 249-250.)

    162

    While common law doctrines do evolve to adapt to new circumstances, it is not too much to ask that trespass to chattel continue to require some injury to the chattel (or at least to the possessory interest in the chattel) in order to maintain the action. The only injury claimed here—the time spent reading an e-mail—goes beyond any injury associated with the chattel or within the tort's zone of protection. Although I understand Intel's desire to end what it deems harassment by a disgruntled former employee, "[w]e must not throw to the winds the advantages of consistency and uniformity to do justice in the instance. We must keep within those interstitial limits which precedent and custom and the long and silent and almost indefinable practice of other judges through centuries of the common law have set to judge-made innovations." (Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921), p. 103, fn. omitted.)

    164

    259*259 The other appellate decisions that have applied trespass to chattel to computer systems have done so only where the transmittal of the unsolicited bulk e-mail burdened the computer equipment, thereby interfering with its operation and diminishing the chattel's value (e.g., America Online, Inc. v. IMS (E.D.Va.1998) 24 F.Supp.2d 548, 550-551; America Online, Inc. v. LCGM, Inc. (E.D.Va.1998) 46 F.Supp.2d 444, 449; CompuServe, Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. (S.D.Ohio 1997) 962 F.Supp. 1015), or where the unauthorized search of, and retrieval of information from, another party's database reduced the computer system's capacity, slowing response times and reducing system performance (Register.com, Inc. v. Verio, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.2000) 126 F.Supp.2d 238, 250; eBay, Inc. v. Bidder's Edge, Inc. (N.D.Cal.2000) 100 F.Supp.2d 1058, 1066, 1071). But no case has held that the requisite injury for trespass to chattel can consist of the mere receipt of an e-mail, the only damage from which consists of the time consumed to read it—assuming the recipient chooses to do so. To apply this tort to electronic signals that do not damage or interfere with the value or operation of the chattel would expand the tort of trespass to chattel in untold ways and to unanticipated circumstances.

    167
    A
    169

    California cases have consistently required actual injury as an element of the tort of trespass to chattel. (Zaslow v. Kroenert (1946) 29 Cal.2d 541, 551, 176 P.2d 1; Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 1566, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468; Itano v. Colonial Yacht Anchorage (1968) 267 Cal.App.2d 84, 90, 72 Cal.Rptr. 823.)

    171

    As most recently defined by the Court of Appeal in Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek, supra, "[t]respass to chattel, although seldom employed as a tort theory in California ..., lies where an intentional interference with the possession of personal property has proximately caused injury." (Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek, supra, 46 Cal.App.4th at p. 1566, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468, fn. omitted.) This definition was derived from Itano v. Colonial Yacht Anchorage, supra, 267 Cal.App.2d at page 90, 72 Cal.Rptr. 823, which, in turn, relied on Prosser's treatise on torts (Prosser) and the California Supreme Court's decisions in Jordan v. Talbot (1961) 55 Cal.2d 597, 610, 12 Cal.Rptr. 488, 361 P.2d 20, and Zaslow v. Kroenert, supra, 29 Cal.2d at page 551, 176 P.2d 1, which themselves relied on Prosser. Accordingly, I turn to Prosser to clarify the elements of the tort.

    173

    The present edition of Prosser cautions that trespass to chattel requires actual damage before the trespass is actionable: "Another departure from the original rule of the old writ of trespass concerns the necessity of some actual damage to the chattel before the action can be maintained. Where the defendant merely interferes without doing any harm—as where, for example, he merely lays hands upon the plaintiffs horse, or sits in his car—there has been a division of opinion among the writers, and a surprising dearth of authority.... Such scanty authority as there is, however, has considered that the dignitary interest in the violability of chattels, unlike that as to land, is not sufficiently important to require any greater defense than the privilege of using reasonable force when necessary to protect them. Accordingly, it has been held that nominal damages will not be awarded, and that in the absence of any actual damage the action will not lie. This must be qualified, however, to the extent that any loss of possession by the plaintiff is regarded as necessarily a loss of something of value, even if only for a brief interval—so that 260*260 wherever there is found to be dispossession, as in the case of seizure of goods on execution, the requirement of actual damage is satisfied...." (Prosser and Keeton on Torts (5th ed.1984) § 14, p. 87, fns. omitted.)

    175

    The Restatement Second of Torts agrees on the need for actual damage for the tort to lie: "The interest of a possessor of a chattel in its inviolability, unlike the similar interest of a possessor of land, is not given legal protection by an action for nominal damages for harmless intermeddlings with the chattel. In order that an actor who interferes with another's chattel may be liable, his conduct must affect some other and more important interest of the possessor. Therefore, one who intentionally intermeddles with another's chattel is subject to liability only if his intermeddling is harmful to the possessor's materially valuable interest in the physical condition, quality, or value of the chattel, or if the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or some other legally protected interest of the possessor is affected as stated in Clause (c)...." (Rest.2d Torts, § 218, com. e, pp. 421-122.)[1]

    177

    For that reason, where a child climbs on the back of another's dog and pulls its ears, but no harm is done to the dog or to the legally protected interest of the owner, the child is not liable. (Glidden v. Szybiak (1949) 63 A.2d 233, 95 N.H. 318; Rest.2d Torts, § 218, com. e, illus. 2, p. 422.) On the other hand, the intermeddling is actionable where the trespass impairs the value of the chattel, even if its physical condition is unaffected. (Rest.2d Torts, § 218, com. h, p. 422.) For instance, "the use of a toothbrush by someone else ... lead[s] a person of ordinary sensibilities to regard the article as utterly incapable of further use by him." (Ibid.)

    179

    The only possible exception to the requirement of actual injury is where there has been a loss of possession, which is viewed as a loss of something of value and thus actual damage: According to comment d of section 218 of the Restatement Second of Torts, "[w]here the trespass to the chattel is a dispossession, the action will lie although there has been no impairment of the condition, quality, or value of the chattel, and no other harm to any interest of the possessor." (Rest.2d Torts, § 218, com. d, p. 421.) This conforms with the observation in Prosser that "loss of possession by the plaintiff is regarded as necessarily a loss of something of value, even if only for a brief interval—so that wherever there is found to be dispossession ..., the requirement of actual damage is satisfied." (Prosser and Keeton on Torts, supra, § 14, p. 87, fns. omitted.)

    181

    Accordingly, in conformity with the California cases, section 218 of the Restatement Second of Torts requires actual injury in order to state a cause of action for trespass to chattel—unless there is a loss of possession, which is deemed to constitute actual damage: "One who commits a trespass to a chattel is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if, [¶] (a) he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or [¶] (b) the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value, or [¶] (c) the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or [¶] (d) bodily harm is caused to the possessor, or harm is caused to some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest." (Rest.2d Torts, § 218, p. 420.)

    184
    B
    186

    In this case, however, Intel was not dispossessed, even temporarily, of its email system by reason of receipt of e-mails; 261*261 the e-mail system was not impaired as to its condition, quality, or value; and no actual harm was caused to a person or thing in which Intel had a legally protected interest.

    188

    The majority nonetheless suggests that "[e]ven assuming Intel has not demonstrated sufficient `harm' to trigger entitlement to nominal damages ... it showed [the defendant] was disrupting its business by using its property and therefore is entitled to injunctive relief based on a theory of trespass to chattels." (Maj. opn. at p. 249.)

    190

    However, if the defendant's earlier transmittals of e-mail did not constitute harm, it is hard to understand what cognizable injury the injunction is designed to avoid. The fact the relief sought is injunctive does not excuse a showing of injury, whether actual or threatened. After all, injunctive relief requires a "showing that the defendant's wrongful act constitutes an actual or threatened injury to property or personal rights that cannot be compensated by an ordinary damage award." (5 Witkin, California Procedure (4th ed.1997) Pleading § 782, p. 239.) The majority therefore cannot avoid the element of injury by relying on the fact that injunctive relief is sought here.

    192

    Alternatively, the majority suggests that injury resulted from defendant's e-mails, because Intel "was hurt by the loss of productivity caused by the thousands of employees distracted from their work [by the e-mails] and by the time its security department spent trying to halt the distractions after [defendant] refused to respect Intel's request to stop ... sending unwanted e-mails." (Maj. opn. at p. 250.)

    194

    But considering first Intel's efforts to stop the e-mails, it is circular to premise the damage element of a tort solely upon the steps taken to prevent the damage. Injury can only be established by the completed tort's consequences, not by the cost of the steps taken to avoid the injury and prevent the tort; otherwise, we can create injury for every supposed tort.

    196

    Nor can a loss of employees' productivity (by having to read an unwanted e-mail on six different occasions over a nearly two-year period) qualify as injury of the type that gives rise to a trespass to chattel. If that is injury, then every unsolicited communication that does not further the business's objectives (including telephone calls) interferes with the chattel to which the communication is directed simply because it must be read or heard, distracting the recipient. "Damage" of this nature—the distraction of reading or listening to an unsolicited communication—is not within the scope of the injury against which the trespass-to-chattel tort protects, and indeed trivializes it. After all, "[t]he property interest protected by the old action of trespass was that of possession; and this has continued to affect the character of the action." (Prosser and Keeton on Torts, supra, § 14, p. 87.) Reading an e-mail transmitted to equipment designed to receive it, in and of itself, does not affect the possessory interest in the equipment.

    198

    Indeed, if a chattel's receipt of an electronic communication constitutes a trespass to that chattel, then not only are unsolicited telephone calls and faxes trespasses to chattel, but unwelcome radio waves and television signals also constitute a trespass to chattel every time the viewer inadvertently sees or hears the unwanted program.

    200

    At oral argument, Intel's counsel argued that the latter cases can be distinguished because Intel gave defendant notice of its objection before his final set of e-mails in September 1998. But such a notice could also be given to television and radio stations, 262*262 telephone callers, and correspondents. Under Intel's theory, even lovers' quarrels could turn into trespass suits by reason of the receipt of unsolicited letters or calls from the jilted lover. Imagine what happens after the angry lover tells her fiancé not to call again and violently hangs up the phone. Fifteen minutes later the phone rings. Her fiancé wishing to make up? No, trespass to chattel.

    202

    No case goes so far as to hold that reading an unsolicited message transmitted to a computer screen constitutes an injury that forms the basis for trespass to chattel. This case can be distinguished from cases like CompuServe Incorporated v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., supra, 962 F.Supp. at page 1022, America Online, Inc. v. IMS, supra, 24 F.Supp.2d 548, and America Online, Inc. v. LCGM, Inc., supra, 46 F.Supp.2d at page 449, where the district court found that unauthorized bulk e-mail advertisements (spam) to subscribers of an online service constituted trespass to chattels because the massive mailings "burdened [its] equipment" and diminished its good will and its possessory interest in its computer network. (America Online, Inc. v. IMS, supra, 24 F.Supp.2d at p. 550-551.) In CompuServe Incorporated v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., supra, 962 F.Supp. at page 1022, for instance, the court found that the defendants' "multitudinous electronic mailings demand[ed] the disk space and drain[ed] the processing power of plaintiff's computer equipment, [making] those resources ... not available to serve CompuServe subscribers" and led subscribers to terminate their accounts, harming Compu-Serve's business reputation and good will with its customers. (962 F.Supp. at pp. 1022, 1023.) Clearly, the defendants' bulk mailings injured the operation and value of the system.

    204

    Likewise, in Register.com, Inc. v. Verio, Inc., supra, 126 F.Supp.2d 238, and eBay, Inc. v. Bidder's Edge, Inc., supra, 100 F.Supp.2d 1058, the unauthorized search of, and retrieval of information from, another party's database was deemed to constitute trespass to chattel because the actions reduced the computer's capacity, slowing response times and reducing system performance.

    206

    Similarly, in Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek, supra, 46 Cal.App.4th at pages 1564-1566, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 468, the Court of Appeal found trespass to chattel where the perpetrators' computer program cracked the plaintiff telephone carrier's access and authorization codes, allowing long distance phone calls to be made without paying for them. That, too, impaired the operation and the value of the owner's possessory interest in the chattel.

    208

    In each of these cases, the chattel, or the possessory interest therein, was impaired as to its condition or value.[2]

    210

    In contrast, here, the record does not suggest any impairment of the chattel's condition or value, or of the possessory interest therein.

    212

    Indeed, the extension of the tort of trespass to chattel to the circumstances here has been condemned by the academic literature. (Burk, The Trouble with Trespass (2000) 4 J. Small & Emerging Bus. L. 27, 39 ["the elements of common law trespass to chattels fit poorly in the context of cyberspace, and so the courts have been able to apply this claim to the problem of spam only by virtue of creative tailoring"]; 263*263 Ballantine, Computer Network Trespasses: Solving New Problems with Old Solutions (2000) 57 Wash. & Lee L.Rev. 209, 248 ["Ultimately, failure to allege or to support a showing of actual harm should have precluded Intel from prevailing on a trespass to chattels theory"].)

    214

    Even in cases involving trespass to land, for which nominal damages may be sought (Polin v. Chung Cho (1970) 8 Cal.App.3d 673, 676, 87 Cal.Rptr. 591), "`the rule is that actionable trespass may not be predicated upon nondamaging noise, odor, or light intrusion....' [Citation.]" (San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1996) 13 Cal.4th 893, 936, 55 Cal.Rptr.2d 724, 920 P.2d 669; emphasis added.) A fortiori, nondamaging electronic signals should not constitute trespass to chattel.

    216

    I acknowledge that the majority opinion contains a quote from an English treatise, Salmond and Heuston on the Law of Torts (21st ed. 1996) (Salmond), which states that "`trespass to chattels is actionable per se without any proof of actual damage,'" citing as examples the snatching of a customer's handbag for a few moments or the showing of a private letter to an unauthorized person. (Maj. opn. at p. 249, quoting Salmond, supra, § 6.2, p. 95.) But this proposition refers to the complete dispossession of chattel, which Prosser suggests satisfies the requirement of actual damage. (Prosser and Keeton on Torts, supra, § 14, p. 87.)

    218

    The majority also cites another English treatise, Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, that purportedly agrees with Salmond. But that treatise acknowledges that "[i]t has been judicially asserted that even an intentional interference without asportation is not actionable unless some harm ensues" and simply states that textbook writers argue to the contrary. (Clerk & Lindsell on Torts (17th ed. 1995) Trespass § 13-159, p. 703.).

    220

    To the extent that Salmond and Clerk & Lindsell state an unqualified view that actual damage is not required to state a cause of action for trespass to chattels, this is the minority view and has been questioned. (See I Harper, James, Gray, The Law of Torts, § 2.3, p. 2:14 [citing cases supporting the proposition that absent dispossession, "there must be some physical harm to the chattel or to its possessor" and calling into question the contrary position by Salmond].)

    222

    In conclusion, the overwhelming weight of authority is that trespass to chattel requires injury to the chattel or to the possessor's legally protected interest in the chattel. Opening and reading unsolicited e-mails is not a cognizable injury to the chattel or to the owner's possessory interest in it.[3]

    225
    C
    227

    One more issue remains to be addressed. If the transmittal of an unsolicited 264*264 e-mail that causes no injury to the condition, value, or operation of the chattel (or to the possessory interest therein) does not rise to the level of trespass to chattel, should the requirement of injury be relaxed to allow an injunction against unwanted e-mail?

    229

    While the common law can be adapted to new circumstances, it is not infinitely malleable. Relaxation of the injury requirement would not merely adapt the tort, but change its nature. After all, "[t]he property interest protected by the old action of trespass was that of possession; and this has continued to affect the character of the action." (Prosser and Keeton on Torts, supra, § 14, p. 87.) Dispensing with the requirement of injury to the value, operation, or condition of the chattel, or the possessory interest therein, would extend the tort's scope in a way that loses sight of its purpose.

    231

    "The reason that the tort of trespass to chattels requires some actual damage as a prima facie element, whereas damage is assumed where there is a trespass to real property, can be explained as follows: [¶] `The interest of a possessor of a chattel in its inviolability, unlike the similar interest of a possessor of land, is not given legal protection ... for harmless intermeddlings with the chattel. In order that an actor who interferes with another's chattel may be liable, his conduct must affect some other and more important interest of the possessor. Therefore, one who intentionally intermeddles with another's chattel is subject to liability only if his intermeddling is harmful to the possessor's materially valuable interest in the physical condition, quality, or value of the chattel, or if the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or some other legally protected interest of the possessor is affected as stated in Clause (c). Sufficient legal protection of the possessor's interest in the mere inviolability of his chattel is afforded by his privilege to use reasonable force to protect his possession against even harmless interference.'" (CompuServe Incorporated v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., supra, 962 F.Supp. at p. 1023, citing Rest.2d Torts, § 218, com. e, original italics.)

    233

    The injury claimed here—the time spent reading an e-mail—goes beyond anything associated with the chattel or within the tort's zone of protection. Extension of the tort to protect against undesired communications, where neither the chattel nor the possessory interest therein is injured, transforms a tort meant to protect possessory interests into one that merely attacks speech. Regardless of whether restraining e-mails to a private company implicates First Amendment rights, such a metamorphosis of the tort is better suited for deliberate legislative action than judicial policymaking.

    235

    Indeed, the Legislature has enacted two statutes that restrict the e-mailing of unsolicited advertising materials (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 17538.4, 17538.45) and another that affords a civil remedy to those who suffer damage or loss from, inter alia, the unauthorized access to a computer system (Pen.Code, § 502, subd. (e)(1)). These statutory provisions and the Legislature's failure to extend these remedies to unsolicited e-mails in general suggests a deliberate decision by the Legislature not to reach the circumstances here. To be sure, common law claims can coexist with statutory enactments. Our Supreme Court has admonished that "statutes do not supplant the common law unless it appears that the Legislature intended to cover the entire subject" (Rojo v. Kliger (1990) 52 Cal.3d 65, 80, 276 Cal.Rptr. 130, 801 P.2d 373; accord, City of Moorpark v. Superior Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, 1156, 77 Cal. Rptr.2d 445, 959 P.2d 752.) But here Intel 265*265 seeks not merely to invoke the common law, but to modify it in a way that alters the doctrine's very character in order to extend it where the Legislature has not yet gone. Modification of the tort doctrine in this way, which would affect the free flow of communication on the internet, is better addressed by the legislative branch, or at the very least by a more suitable tort doctrine that can distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable burdens.

    237

    As Learned Hand cautioned—and this certainly applies when a court construes a common law doctrine that is embedded within a subsequent legislative enactment—"the judge must always remember that he should go no further than he is sure the government would have gone, had it been faced with the case before him. If he is in doubt, he must stop, for he cannot tell the conflicting interests in the society for which he speaks would have come to a just result, even though he is sure that he knows what the just result should be. He is not to substitute even his juster will for theirs; otherwise it would not be the common will which prevails, and to that extent the people would not govern." (Hand, How Far is a Judge Free in Rendering a Decision? CBS radio broadcast, May 14, 1933, collected in Aldisert, The Spirit of Liberty, Papers and Addresses of Learned Hand (1952) p. 109.)

    240

    [1] The full text of section 218, including clause (c), is found at pages 260-261, post.

    242

    [2] Nor is America Online, Inc. v. National Health Care Discount (N.D.Iowa 2000) 121 F.Supp.2d 1255, 1278, cited by the majority, to the contrary since there, the defendant conceded that a prima facie case of trespass to chattel had been established. The only issue there was whether the defendant was liable for a third party's actions.

    244

    [3] The majority cites to the U.S. Supreme Court's passing reference to a "form of trespass" in the context of unwanted mailings to householders in Rowan v. United States Post Office (1970) 397 U.S. 728, 737, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 1490, 25 L.Ed.2d 736, 742(Rowan). But the high court did not rule that an unwanted mailing constituted a trespass to chattel. "[A]n opinion is not authority for a proposition not therein considered." (Ginns v. Savage (1964) 61 Cal.2d 520. 524. fn. 2, 39 Cal.Rptr. 377, 393 P.2d 689.) In Rowan, the Court rejected a First Amendment challenge to a federal statute that authorized a person to remove his name from mailing lists. The Court stated: "To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home." (397 U.S. at p. 737, 90 S.Ct. at p. 1490, 25 L.Ed.2d at p. 743). Nothing in Rowan suggests the common law, as opposed to a statute, can make unsolicited mailings a trespass to chattel.

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