Yahoo Is Not Prohibited From Disclosing Contents of Email Account to Estate Representatives

Massachusetts’ highest court rules that the Stored Communications Act does not prohibit an email provider from disclosing the contents of a decedent’s email account to the decedent’s personal representatives. Ajemian v. Yahoo!, Inc.(Mass., No. SJC-12237, Oct. 16, 2017).

John Ajemian had a Yahoo email account that he used as his primary email. After he died, his personal representatives sought access to the email account. Yahoo declined to provide access without a court order.

Mr. Ajemian’s estate sued Yahoo, seeking a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to access the emails in the account. Yahoo filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA), which prohibits unauthorized third parties from accessing communications stored by service providers, prevented it from disclosing the emails. The trial court judge agreed, and the estate appealed.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reverses, holding that the SCA does not prohibit the estate from accessing Mr. Ajemian’s emails. According to the court, the SCA “permits Yahoo to divulge the contents of the e-mail account where, as here, the personal representatives lawfully consent to disclosure on the decedent’s behalf.”

For the full text of this decision, go to: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/10/16/12237.pdf

This article was reprinted with the permission of ElderLawAnswers.com.  If you have any questions regarding the material in this article and how it applies to Iowa residents, please contact Pearson Bollman Law at (515) 298-8850.

Categories