United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant Mark
Skapinetz' motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 98
& 100); Defendant and Counter-Plaintiff CoesterVMS.com,
Inc. (“CoesterVMS”)'s motion for
reconsideration (ECF No. 87); counsel for CoesterVMS'
motion to withdraw (ECF No. 90); and Skapinetz' requests
for attorneys' fees. ECF Nos. 68 & 86. Although
several motions have been briefed by each side, the motions
for summary judgment and the second request for
attorneys' fees went unopposed. No. hearing on these motions
is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following
reasons, the Court grants the motions for summary judgment,
denies the motion for reconsideration, grants the motion to
withdraw, and denies without prejudice the requests for
Skapinetz' Motions for Summary Judgment
center of this case is a single email authored by Plaintiff,
Mark Skapinetz, about Brian Coester and his business,
CoesterVMS. Skapinetz, a real estate appraiser based in
Georgia, had performed appraisals as a subcontractor for
CoesterVMS, an appraisal management company. ECF No. 100-3 at
5. On November 10, 2016, Skapinetz sent a CoesterVMS client
an email critical of CoesterVMS, describing the operation as
a “criminal and fraudulent company, ” and
attaching documents reflecting ongoing litigation between
CoesterVMS and a third party. ECF No. 10-2 at 2. Skapinetz
sent the email unsigned, but from his personal,
email@example.com account. Id.; ECF No. 100-2
at 3. The recipient and CoesterVMS client, Finance of
America, forwarded the email to Brian Coester with the
following message: “Hey Bro because I really like you
and I respect you and think you need to see that this
firstname.lastname@example.org is sending me this crap to disparage
your name.” ECF No. 10-2 at 1.
became concerned about the email and decided to investigate
the identity of the author, using the help of a CoesterVMS
development contractor. ECF No. 100-3 at 6; ECF No. 100-4 at
2. The contractor identified the last four digits of the
telephone number associated with the email address. ECF No.
100-4 at 2. Using the computer located in his office, Coester
entered the digits into a CoesterVMS sales database, which
generated a list of individuals whose phone numbers included
those digits. ECF No. 100-4 at 2. Skapinetz was among those
listed. Id. Because of Coester's role as CEO and
owner, he was able to access the database that also included
the password Skapinetz had used to log into the CoesterVMS
online appraiser site. ECF No. 100-3 at 7.
Coester's surprise, he was able to log into
Skapinetz' email@example.com account using the same
password. Id.; ECF No. 100-4 at 2. Nothing in the
record suggests that in connection with their business
relationship, Skapinetz had ever given Coester or CoesterVMS
permission to obtain wholesale access to his Gmail account.
Once logged in, Coester saw the emails in Skapinetz'
account, including emails from the Finance of America
appraiser, as well as another individual Robert Scheer, with
whom Coester was engaged in ongoing litigation. ECF No. 100-3
next logged out of the firstname.lastname@example.org account and
attempted access into Skapinetz' business email account,
email@example.com. Id. Coester contends that he did
so to confirm Skapinetz' identity as author of the
disparaging email and to also learn whether Skapinetz
possessed any unlawfully obtained confidential and
proprietary information related to CoesterVMS. Coester also
wanted to learn to what extent Skapinetz sought to harm
CoesterVMS, and the nature of his Skapinetz' connection,
if any, to Scheer. ECF No. 100-4 at 3.
successfully logged into the firstname.lastname@example.org account using
the same password and searched the emails. ECF No. 100-3 at
8; ECF No. 100-1 at 4. Coester also printed four of
Skapinetz' emails. ECF No. 100-3 at 10. Like the
email@example.com account, Skapinetz never gave Coester
permission to access this account. ECF No. 100-1 at 4.
received a security alert that his firstname.lastname@example.org
account had been accessed from an unrecognized device in
Maryland. ECF No. 100-2 at 3; ECF No. 1-1 at 1. Skapinetz-who
lives in Georgia-deleted the entire Gmail account because of
security concerns and did not preserve any content in the
account prior to deleting it. ECF No. 1-2 at 1; ECF No. 100-2
at 3. Skapinetz, however, continued to use his
email@example.com account. Id. at 2. Both email
accounts were hosted on web-based email platforms run by
Google and used Google's servers. ECF No. 100-2 at 2.
April 20, 2017, Skapinetz filed suit against Coester and
CoesterVMS, alleging violations of the Stored Communications
Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et
seq., and common law claims for trespass to chattels,
trespass to land, conversion, fraud, and invasion of privacy.
ECF No. 1. After the Court dismissed the trespass to land and
fraud claims (ECF Nos. 16 & 17), Coester and CoesterVMS
filed counterclaims against Skapinetz for tortious
interference with contract and economic relations. ECF No.
40. After a protracted discovery process, Skapinetz now seeks
summary judgment in his favor on his claims as well as
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the Court, construing all
evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, finds no genuine
dispute exists as to any material fact, thereby entitling the
movant to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
see In re Family Dollar FLSA Litig., 637 F.3d 508,
512 (4th Cir. 2011). Summary judgment must be granted
“against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
responding to a proper motion for summary judgment, ”
the opposing party “must present evidence of specific
facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find for
him or her.” Venugopal v. Shire Labs., 334
F.Supp.2d 835, 840 (D. Md. 2004), aff'd sub nom.
Venugopal v. Shire Labs., Inc., 134 Fed.Appx. 627 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477
U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23)).
Genuine disputes of material fact are not created
“through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Othentec Ltd. v.
Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 140 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).
Where a party's statement of a fact is “blatantly
contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could
believe it, ” the Court credits the record. Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
Stored Communications Act
argues that Coester and CoesterVMS violated the Stored
Communications Act (“SCA”) when Coester accessed
his email accounts. The SCA provides a right of action
against anyone who “intentionally accesses without
authorization a facility through which an electronic
communication is provided . . . and thereby obtains, alters,
or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic
communication while it is in electronic storage in such
system . . . .” 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701(a),
2707(a). To prevail under the SCA, Skapinetz must prove that
Defendants (1) accessed a system through which electronic
communication service is provided without authorization; (2)
obtained a wire or electronic communication from the
electronic storage system; and (3) acted intentionally.
Hately v. Torrenzano, No. 1116CV01143GBLMSN, 2017 WL
2274326, at *6 (E.D. Va. May 23, 2017).
respect to Coester, the uncontroverted evidence compels
summary judgment in Skapinetz' favor. On the first
element, Coester admits that he accessed Skapinetz' email
accounts without authorization. ECF No. 100-1 at 4. No.
evidence has been generated to the contrary. Equally
uncontroverted, Coester obtained the email communication
while it was in electronic storage through Google. ECF No.
No. 100-2 at 2. Because Gmail provides users with the ability
to send and receive emails, Gmail qualifies as a
“facility through which an electronic communication is
provided.” See 18 U.S.C. § 2510(12)
(defining “electronic communication” as
“any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images,
sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in
whole or in part by a wire, ...