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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

WhitePages Cleared for Wrong Number Listing

(CN) - A man cannot sue over thousands of unwanted calls he received after WhitePages said his phone number belonged to Comcast of Virginia, a federal judge ruled.

From October 2009 through February 2011, WhitePages.com incorrectly listed Michael Nasser Sr.'s phone number as that of "Comcast Phone of Virginia" and "Comcast Phont of Virginia," causing him to receive thousands of unwanted calls intended for the telecommunications company.

Nasser said he notified the company of the mistake, but it never removed the listing and then sold the information to Yellowbook, which published it in the 2011-12 Yellowbook for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Area.

In a federal complaint, Nasser claimed that the error caused him extreme emotional distress, which manifested in insomnia, elevated blood-sugar, ringing in his ears, and reoccurrence of stuttered speech and headaches. He sought $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Adopting the recommendation of a federal magistrate, U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski dismissed the case last week for failure to state a claim.

The report from U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Waugh Crigler found that federal immunity shielded WhitePages under the Communications Decency Act, which bars lawsuits seeking to hold online services liable as publishers when the information originates from a third-party user.

Nasser had sought to undermine the immunity defense by alleging that WhitePages altered the listings. He also claimed that WhitePages had a duty to remove the incorrect listings when informed of it both by his report and the state court.

Crigler concluded, however, that there is precedent for continued immunity when interactive service provider "solicits, pays for, edits, and generally maintains active control over the content of its website."

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