No Luck for Muted Videogame Player's Federal Lawsuit


From Elansari v. Jagex Inc., decided last week by the Third Circuit:

In July 2019, Elansari filed a [pro se] complaint alleging that after playing a game operated by defendant Jagex Ltd. on the internet for some time, Elansari was "muted" from the game for no reason, and Elansari's internal appeal was denied. Elansari's complaint alleged a variety of federal constitutional violations. Elansari requested that Jagex "remove the mute on Plaintiff's account."

{The phrase "breach of contract" also appeared on Elansari's complaint, and Elansari checked a box on the complaint labeled "diversity jurisdiction," but the designation form accompanying the complaint identified Elansari's case as a civil rights case brought solely under the District Court's federal question jurisdiction. The District Court concluded that Elansari had not brought a state law claim, a construction that Elansari does not challenge on appeal.} {The District Court … observed that Elansari might be able to bring [a state law] claim in a proper forum exercising jurisdiction over the foreign defendants.}

On appeal, Elansari first argues that the District Court should have adjudicated, and granted relief on, a Fourteenth Amendment claim. However, state action is a prerequisite for bringing a Fourteenth Amendment claim, and Elansari has made no allegations indicating that any named defendant is a state actor.

Next, citing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Elansari maintains that the District Court should have identified and considered a claim of public accommodations discrimination in Elansari's complaint. Elansari insists that defendant Jagex should be liable for "unequal treatment" because Elansari's account was "muted … compared to all other players who are not muted."

Title II prohibits "discrimination … on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin." Even generously construing Elansari's complaint to raise a claim of public accommodations discrimination and assuming that Elansari can bring such a claim in this context, at no point either in the District Court or on appeal has Elansari alleged losing access to Jagex's online game due to discrimination based on any of the grounds protected by Title II. {Under the circumstances of this case, the District Court did not abuse its discretion in declining to offer Elansari leave to file an amended complaint.}

Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center MediaLawDaily for the pointer.