Sean D. Randall v. Change.org


Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP successfully represented Change.org in the case.

Change.org provides a platform for users around the world to create, promote and sign online petitions on matters of public concern. After the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, a Change.org petition seeking “Justice for George Floyd” gathered almost 20 million signatures, becoming what is likely the most-signed petition in history. For a time, Change.org invited petition signers to make a monetary contribution to help promote the petition. Change.org promised that, for each dollar contributed, it would advertise the petition to 12.5 people. It undisputedly met—and exceeded—that advertising commitment. In addition, given the historic movement unfolding around the petition, Change.org agreed to pledge $10 million to a variety of racial justice organizations and initiatives that aligned with the petition’s goal.

In June 2020, Plaintiff Sean Randall signed the George Floyd petition and contributed $3.00 in response to Change.org’s solicitation. Five days later, he filed a putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Change.org had breached its user contracts by making the $10 million racial justice pledge. Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler moved to dismiss on behalf of Change.org. On December 9, 2020, the District Court granted the Firm’s motion, dismissing Randall’s suit with prejudice. As it found: “Change.org fulfilled its obligations under the contract. It used funds from the Floyd Petition to advertise the Petition to millions of people … across the country,” including displaying the petition “to 39 people as a [direct] result of Mr. Randall’s contribution.” Because Change.org had satisfied its express advertising commitments, its further decision to commit $10 million in contributed funds to racial justice work was proper and did “no[t] breach” its user agreements. moved to dismiss on behalf of Change.org. On December 9, 2020, the District Court granted the Firm’s motion, dismissing Randall’s suit with prejudice. As it found: “Change.org fulfilled its obligations under the contract. It used funds from the Floyd Petition to advertise the Petition to millions of people … across the country,” including displaying the petition “to 39 people as a [direct] result of Mr. Randall’s contribution.” Because Change.org had satisfied its express advertising commitments, its further decision to commit $10 million in contributed funds to racial justice work was proper and did “no[t] breach” its user agreements.

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler team included Steven A. Zalesin (Picture), Jonah M. Knobler, and George S. Soussou.

Involved fees earner: Jonah Knobler – Patterson Belknap; George Soussou – Patterson Belknap; Steven Zalesin – Patterson Belknap;

Law Firms: Patterson Belknap;

Clients: Change.org;

Author: Ambrogio Visconti