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Eysoldt v. GoDaddy, et al., C-100528 (Ohio Ct. App.; May 18, 2011)

Eysoldt v. GoDaddy, et al., C-100528 (Ohio Ct. App.; May 18, 2011)

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Ohio appeals court rules that GoDaddy can be held liable for transferring control over domain name and email accounts without properly verifying registrant's identity.
Ohio appeals court rules that GoDaddy can be held liable for transferring control over domain name and email accounts without properly verifying registrant's identity.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on May 23, 2011
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05/23/2011

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 Civil Appeals From: Hamilton County Court of Common PleasJudgment Appealed From Is: AffirmedDate of Judgment Entry on Appeal: May 18, 2011
William M. Gustavson,
for Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
Thompson Hine LLP 
,
Christopher M. Bechhold 
, and
 Heather M. Hawkins
, forDefendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.Please note: This case has been removed from the accelerated calendar
.
IN THE COURT OF APPEALSFIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT OF OHIOHAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO
JEFF EYSOLDT,MARK EYSOLDT,JILL EYSOLDT,Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross- Appellants,andKATHERINE EYSOLDT, ET AL.,Plaintiffs, vs.PROSCAN IMAGING, ET AL.,Defendants,andGO DADDY.COM., INC.,Defendant-Appellant/Cross- Appellee.:::::::::::::: APPEAL NOS. C-100528C-100529TRIAL NO. A-0703129
 D E C I S I O N.
 
 
O
HIO
F
IRST
D
ISTRICT
C
OURT OF
 A 
PPEALS
 
2
D
INKELACKER 
,
 
Presiding
 
Judge.
{¶1}
 
Defendant-appellant/cross-appellee, Go Daddy.com, Inc., appealsfrom a judgment entered upon jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs-appellees/cross-appellants, Jeff Eysoldt, Mark Eysoldt, and Jill Eysoldt. The Eysoldts appeal that
part of the trial court‟s judgment granting Go Daddy‟s motion for a directed verdict
on
the issue of punitive damages. We affirm the trial court‟s judgment.
 
I. Facts and Procedure 
{¶2}
 
The record shows that, in November 2002, Jeff Eysoldt openedaccount number 1165490 with Go Daddy and transferred his domain name,Eysoldt.com, into that account. When he set up the account, he agreed to the terms
of Go Daddy‟s Domain Name Registration Agreement, which was subsequently replaced by Go Daddy‟s Universal Terms of Service Agreement
 
(“UTOS”)
.
{¶3}
 
Though he could have opened multiple accounts, Jeff used accountnumber 1165490 to register various personal and business domain names and theassociated email accounts. He paid fees for those services with his credit card. Healso opened email accounts for his sister, Jill, and his brother, Mark. He helped Jilldevelop a website for her business, Good Karma Cookies. He locked all his domainnames, which, according to Go Daddy, meant that the only way a third party couldaccess any of the
domain names was if the third party knew Jeff‟s user name and
password.
{¶4}
 
Subsequently, Jeff began a business relationship with the owners of Proscan Imaging to operate cosmetic surgery centers called Rejuvenate AestheticLaser Centers
(“
Rejuvenate
”)
. During the negotiations, he registered the domainname Myrejuvenate.com through his Go Daddy account. He paid the monthly fee for
 
O
HIO
F
IRST
D
ISTRICT
C
OURT OF
 A 
PPEALS
 
3
the website and its associated email through an automatic monthly withdrawal fromRejuve
nate‟s checking account.
 
{¶5}
 
Ruth Wallace was ProScan‟s chief financial officer and a minority 
owner of Rejuvenate. When Rejuvenate did not perform as anticipated, therelationship between Jeff and his business partners began to sour. Jeff and hispartners began negotiations to remove Jeff from the business. But they had difficulty coming to an agreement, and Jeff refused to turn the website over to Rejuvenate.
{¶6}
 
Consequently, Wallace called Go Daddy 
‟s
customer service. DanielBaranowsky, a call-center employee, randomly answered her call. Wallace toldBaranowsky that she wanted to put Myrejuvinate.com into her name. Baranowsky testified that he had been trained that when a third party asked to change a domainname, the registrant was required to request the change.
{¶7}
 
 Wallace did not know 
Jeff‟s
user name or password. Baranowsky asked Wallace to validate the account by providing the last four to six digits of the method of payment for the account. Since Wallace was the chief financial officer of ProScan, sheknew the last four digits of the bank account number used to pay for theMyrejuvenate.com website.
{¶8}
 
Baronowsky testified that validating an account only meant that he, as acustomer-service representative, could access the account on his computer. WhenBaronowsky accessed the account after speaking to Wallace, he saw a screen thatshowed that Jeff was the owner of account number 1165490. It also listed his address,phone number, and e-mail address.
{¶9}
 
Jeff testified that he had contacted Go Daddy on a number of occasions because he was worried that people associated with ProScan might try to steal hisaccount. A representative from Go Daddy had told him that no one could take his

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