Worldmark v. Wyndham Resort: an e-mail address is an "address"

In Worldmark, the Club v. Wyndham Resort Development Corporation (August 23, 2010), the Court of Appeal (Third Appellate District) reviewed a case arising under the Corporations Code after a member sought access to membership records of nonprofit mutual benefit corporation Worldmark. Worldmark is a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation owned by its more than 260,000 members. It owns vacation time share resorts throughout North America. Wyndham is an Oregon corporation that manages the operations of Worldmark's resorts pursuant to a management agreement.

Who cares, you say?  You do!  Consider the facts. A Worldmark member invoked section 8330 to demand that Worldmark "make available" to its members a petition proposing amendments to the corporation's by-laws. When Worldmark refused, the member demanded a right to inspect and copy Worldmark's membership records, including the email addresses of its members, for the purpose of distributing the petition. Email is one of the methods that Worldmark uses to communicate with its members. When Worldmark denied the demand, it proposed the use of a third party mail house to send the petition as a “reasonable alternative” that achieved the purpose in the demand.  The member petitioned and the Court denied the petition.

Who cares, you say again?  You do!  Why?  Because the trial court reversed, holding:

We shall conclude that the term "members'. . . addresses," in section 8330, subdivision (a) (1), which a corporation is required to disclose, is sufficiently broad to encompass email addresses in light of the section's purpose and in light of allied sections that allow a corporation to communicate with its members for the purpose of the corporation's business.

Slip op., at 3-4.  Now you care.  A court just said that an e-mail address is an "address."  I know.  This holding is limited to an interpretation of a provision in the Corporations Code.  But this is where it starts - the recognition that e-mail is now as much a means of communication as a phone number or a physical address.

If you still don't care, I can't help you.