- Sultan v. Coinbase
- Coinbase moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a mandatory arbitration clause in its user agreement after plaintiff sued Coinbase for allegedly failing to prevent a scam that allowed a third party to steal more than $200,000 from his account
Disclaimer: These summaries are provided for educational purposes only by Nelson Rosario and Stephen Palley. They are not legal advice. These are our opinions only, aren’t authorized by any past, present or future client or employer. Also we might change our minds. We contain multitudes.
As always, Rosario summaries are “NMR” and Palley summaries are “SDP”.
Court determines bitcoin qualifies as money, leading to potential string cite
Sultan v. Coinbase, E.D.N.Y., 18–934, 1/24/19. [SDP]
You know those “accept” or “agree” buttons you click on websites and agree to terms of service that you’ve never actually read? Are they actually enforceable? Ask a lawyer and you will probably get “it depends.” (Facts and circumstances, the terms at issue, jurisdiction, etc etc yada yada lawyer hedging). We’ve talked about these so-called clickwrap agreements in prior CCM’s, and this case particular case involves the enforceability of an arbitration clause in Coinbase’s click wrap terms of service.
The plaintiff sued Coinbase, alleging that it “negligently failed to prevent a scam that allowed a third party to steal more than $200,000 from his account. Coinbase moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a mandatory arbitration clause in its user agreement.”
The Court said that the “explicit acceptance here” was a clear signal that use of the site would be subject to the referenced terms and “an even stronger prompt to a reasonably prudent user to click on the link to see what those terms and conditions were before agreeing.” Thus, the plaintiff was on “inquiry notice” of the terms. Although he didn’t remember clicking the “I certify etc” box, the website layout was clear enough to give him notice that his use was conditioned on acceptance of the User Agreement, with its arbitration clause.
In short, the case was stayed, and arbitration compelled. (As a closing aside: whether arbitration is better or worse is a matter of opinion. In some cases, plaintiffs who have weaker arguments can actually do better in private arbitration. So this is not necessarily a loss for the plaintiff in the long run. It … depends : )