There’s movement in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the high-profile “Moneymakey” lawsuit against PayPal, which targets PayPal’s allegedly unlawful account seizures, including those of many accounts allegedly connected to gambling. In the latest appellate filing, California attorneys Eric Bensamochan and Edwin Schreiber continue their battle against a June 2022 lower-court ruling that dismissed the case and forced claims about PayPal’s seizures back into PayPal’s internal arbitration process.
The legal action originated with PayPal’s April 2021 seizure of $12,000 from Chris Moneymaker’s personal account with the California-based online wallet. The funds were league fees for a DFS league that Moneymaker managed, and after PayPal’s unilateral funds seizure, Moneymaker went ballastic on social media, retained Bensamochan as his counsel, and invited others to join him in a battle against the “payments bully”, PayPal.
Moneymaker’s widespread fame, centered on his historic win in the 2003 World Series of Poker main event, helped draw mainstream attention to the case. PayPal quickly reversed course and returned Moneymaker’s funds. By that time, however, the roots of a would-be class action against PayPal had already taken hold. Poker League of Nations founder Lena Evans (pictured above), another alleged victim of PayPal’s illlegal seizures, took Moneymaker’s place as the case’s lead plaintiff.
Latest filing reiterates claim that PayPal’s conduct is illegal under California law
The onerous and one-sided nature of PayPal’s terms of service are at the core of the complaint that includes three plaintiffs, led by Evans. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of other allegedly aggrieved PayPal users could join the case if it is forced back into the court system instead of PayPal’s arbitration process.
While that process is mandated within PayPal’s lengthy user agreement, the latest appellate brief argues that California law works in favor of PayPal’s forced-arbitration process being invalid. Citing prior case law dealing with “unconscionable” contract clauses, a standard met by “overly harsh or one-sided results that ‘shock the conscience.'”
PayPal’s unilateral ability to invoke a 180-day freee on any account it believes may have violated its TOS is one such example, compounded by the company’s allegedly common use of the process. The Evans complaint alleged that not only does PayPal refuse to disclose exactly how or why given users had their accounts frozen, it also refuses to allow those customers to submit evidence on their own behalf.
Then, after account balances are “generally” confiscated, according to the filing, “To add insult to injury, Paypal often then sends the now-former customer a tax statement for all the money PayPal has taken from the customer’s account.”
“If we believe that you’ve engaged in any of these activities, we may take a number of actions to protect Paypal, its customers and others, at any time in our sole discretion,” reads one clause from the site’s terms of service, which is one of the inclusions plaintiffs assert is in violation of California contract law.
Appellate battle began in October
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals battle regarding the case’s future may drag on for several more months, and if the lower-court ruling is reversed, resolution could take years. Besides dismissing the case and ordering it into PayPal’s internal arbitration process, the lower court also combined the matter with another case alleging similar illegal actions by the online payments company. However, as the latest filing notes, this remains a “reversal judicial error.”
Meanwhile, Bensamochan and other attorneys experienced in consumer-protection matters launched a parallel effort against PayPal and another online giant alleged to enforce one-sided terms of service, Amazon. That action was filed last year in Singapore, where PayPal’s terms of service for that jurisdictions allow that any person in the world can file a contract dispute against PayPal in a Singapore court.
That actiion quickly drew 4,000 litigants, each of whom is using a novel blockchain-based agreement through which they assign their rights to a case manager for the purposes of the civil action. That action has its online home at http://paypalclassaction.net/.
Meanwhile, though no longer officially involved in any action against PayPal, originally-planned plaintiff Moneymaker continues railing against the company as opportunities arise. Moneymaker’s pinned Tweet on Twitter remains as follows:
Featured image source: Haley Hintze