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Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc.

August 5, 2020

In an attempt to determine the identities of individuals who posted defamatory comments ona Virginia business’ Yelp page, the business served a subpoena on Yelp’s Virginia registered agent to obtain the true identities of the individuals.  The Supreme Court of Virginia weighed in and determined that a Virginia circuit court did not have the power to enforce a non-party subpoena duces tecum directing Yelp to produce documents that were located in California.  While the information that the plaintiff business was seeking was stored in Yelp’s ordinary course of business, the administrative databases that held the information were within the custody of only certain Yelp employees who were located in California.

The Supreme Court emphasized that the underlying concepts of personal jurisdiction and subpoena power are not the same.  It noted that the act by Yelp to designate a registered agent to accept service of process in the Commonwealth of Virginia is not the equivalent to submitting itself to the subpoena power of the courts under these circumstances.  As a result, the Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacated the contempt order of the Circuit Court, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Yelp Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Inc. (McClanahan) No. 140242, April 16, 2015; Va.Ct.App.;