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Hawkins v. Richter

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

July 20, 2017




         On August 16, 2016, Plaintiff Stacy Hawkins filed a complaint naming William Richter, Nevin Steinbrink, Nicholas Wilson, Michael Herbolsheimer, Steinbrink Engineer, Fashion Square Dental, and Google, Inc., as Defendants. ECF No. 1. Hawkins' complaint contends that his “business partners” in a “high tech, high growth startup” sabotaged and betrayed him by, among other things, hacking his company-related email and social media accounts. Compl. at 1- 2, ECF No. 1. All pretrial matters were referred to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris. ECF No.3. On September 27, 2016, Defendant Google filed a motion to dismiss all claims against it. ECF No. 11. The remaining Defendants filed answers on the same date. ECF Nos. 12, 13, 14. On January 19, 2017, all Defendants except Google filed a motion to dismiss and motion for judgment on the pleadings. ECF No. 29. On March 16, 2017, Judge Morris issued a report which found that this Court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Hawkins' claims and which recommended dismissal. ECF No. 37. Hawkins has filed objections. ECF No. 38. For the reasons stated below, those objections will be overruled and the complaint will be dismissed.


         The well-pleaded factual allegations in Hawkins' complaint will be assumed to be true. Plaintiff Stacy Hawkins alleges that in June of 2012 he began discussing business ventures with his dentist, William Richter. Compl. at 6. Together, the two developed an idea for a “health app” that would connect to toothbrushes and inform the app user “how well they brushed.” Id. at 6-8. They intended to call the app “LifeBrush.” Id. at 11. They founded a company, which they named “Click Care, ” to pursue this idea. Id. at 7. Over time, several investors and partners joined Hawkins and Richter. Hawkins contends that, despite the growing number of people involved, he “sacrificed his financial well-being and his physical well-being” to develop Click Care. Id. at 14. The Click Care Team set up business email addresses via Google. Id. at 17. The email addresses at issue in Hawkins' suit are:,, and Id. at 17. Hawkins was the “Super Administrator” of the accounts, used as his personal and business account, and was the only person who knew the password to that account. Hawkins also created a company LinkedIn profile, called “LifeBrush Team” and (later) “Click Care's LifeBrush, ” which he managed. Id. at 21.

         Eventually, the Click Care team decided to formalize the company by drafting an operating agreement. Id. at 18. Despite Hawkins' best efforts, the Click Care team was unable to attract sufficient investors. Id. at 27-28. The other members of Click Care informed Hawkins “they were voting him out of the company.” Id. at 28. Hawkins argued that they did not have the authority to do so and “expressed that his equity gave him the authority to vote them out and he was exercising that right to do so.” Id. Despite the uncertain status of the ownership of the company, the other members of Click Care asked Hawkins to turn over the passwords to the Click Care LinkedIn Profile and the email accounts he was administrator of. Id. Hawkins refused. Id. In response, the other members of Click Care attempted to hack the accounts. Id. Eventually, they contacted Google Tech Support and, through their help, gained access to the accounts. Id. at 28-29. Hawkins contends that the emails in his account contained proof that he owns Click Care, but that the hacking has prevented him from accessing that proof.

         In the current suit, Hawkins advances ten claims for relief. First, Hawkins seeks a “declaratory order” confirming that the account hacking violated state and federal law because individuals who create “password-protected accounts via a computer system/network have an expectation of privacy with regard to those accounts.” Id. at 29. Second, Hawkins alleges that the Defendants violated the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et. seq. Third, he contends that Defendants violated Michigan's Misuse of Computer Statute, M.C.L. 752.791, et. seq. In Counts Four through Seven, Hawkins argues that Defendants Google, Steinbrink, Steinbrink Engineering, and Richter violated their fiduciary duty. In the Eight Count, Hawkins asks the Court to enter a declaratory order interpreting the Operating Agreement and finding that he owns Click Care. In Count Nine, Hawkins alleges that Defendants Richter, Steinbrink, Wilson, Herbolsheimer, and Steinbrink Engineering breached their contract with him. In Count Ten, Hawkins alleges that Defendants Richter, Fashion Square Dental, Steinbrink, Wilson, Herbolsheimer, and Steinbrink Engineering converted his property.


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to and seek review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo review requires at least a review of the evidence before the magistrate judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. See Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F.Supp.2d 806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002).

         Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D. Mich. 2004). An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrate's Act.” Id.


         In her report and recommendation, Judge Morris concludes that because none of Hawkins' claims arise out of federal law, federal jurisdiction is not present. Judge Morris acknowledged that one of Hawkins' claims, alleging violation of the Stored Communications Act, does implicate federal law. But because Hawkins did not actually own the social media or email accounts in question, he does not have standing to bring a claim under the Stored Communications Act.

         In response Hawkins filed four objections. First, Hawkins argues that Judge Morris's report and recommendation did not address whether Hawkins had an ownership interest in his LinkedIn account sufficient to create standing. Second, Hawkins argues that he had a “personal reasonable expectation of privacy in his company-issued” email address. Objs. at 5, ECF No. 38. Third, he argues that Defendant Richter's motion to dismiss is untimely and should not have been considered. Finally, he faults Judge Morris for not addressing his pending motion for leave to amend. For the following reasons, these objections will be overruled, Judge Morris's report and recommendation will be adopted, and the complaint will be dismissed.


         In his first objection, Hawkins argues that “the Magistrate did not expressly look at whether Plaintiff's claim regarding his LinkedIn account raised a federal question.” Objs. at 2. But that is not true. In holding that Hawkins did not have ...

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