Monday, April 2, 2018
Last Monday, in Ajemian v. Yahoo!, the United States Supreme Court denied Yahoo!’s Petition for a Writ of Certiorari. This means the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ opinion on the matter is now final regarding its holding that a “personal representatives may provide lawful consent on the decedent’s behalf to the release of the contents of the Yahoo e-mail account.” This decision represents a significant development for family members and fiduciaries seeking out and struggle to gain access to deceased individual’s online accounts.
This, unfortunately, is not a total victory for the Ajemian family. A particular issue in the case, the question regarding the enforceability of Yahoo!’s Terms of Service Agreement, was remanded to the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court for consideration. Chief Justice Gants was less than pleased with the decision to remand the issue. He wrote in a separate opinion: “Not only is the remand unnecessary, but it also is unfair to the plaintiffs. The additional cost of further litigation is a financial pinprick to a Web services provider such as Yahoo, but it is a heavy financial burden on the assets of an estate, even a substantial estate. The plaintiffs should not have to spend a penny more to obtain estate property in the possession of Yahoo that they need to administer the estate.”
See Jim Lamm, Ajemian v. Yahoo! Case Update, Digital Passing, April 2, 2018.