June 20, 2006
MySpace.com Sued for $30 Million
(Eric Goldman is relocating his family to California this week and next, and will be able to post only occasionally. In his absence, John Ottaviani will continue to guest blog from time to time.)
It was only a matter of time. A 14-year-old Texas girl who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old she met on MySpace.com has sued the site for $30,000,000, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators. Here is a report of the complaint from the Austin American-Statesman . MySpace.com's response: "We take aggressive measures to protect our members."
Being the parent of teen and pre-teen age children, I am all too familiar with MySpace.com and similar sites. I too question how aggressively MySpace.com really polices its site (type in the name of your local middle school and see how many underage users have become members by lying about their age!). But, I have a hard time seeing that MySpace.com has any legal duty here to protect its members (underage or of age), how it could protect its 14-year old members better than their parents, or whether there is sufficient causation to impose liability on MySpace.com for actions that occurred in the physical world.
We’ll try to get a copy of the complaint and analyze it further. If anyone has a copy, please send it along.
UPDATE: Complaint copy can be found here.
Posted by John Ottaviani at June 20, 2006 03:49 PM | Derivative Liability
You’re right – it was only a matter of time. I too would like to see the complaint as well as the responsive pleadings and your analysis of them. Wouldn’t the in loco parentis doctrine apply here? You raise a good point: Where are the parents in this awful situation? Which is why I want to see the Defendant’s answer. If you were MySpace’s counsel would you recommend settlement to get rid of it quickly? This is a case worth watching.
Posted by: David at June 21, 2006 03:07 PM
As you know, I am a big fan of your web site. However, I disagree that myspace cannot necessarily have a legal duty.
For example, last month, my law firm won a $1,050,000 verdict in favor of family whose daughter was murdered at Knox College in Illinois by another student. This is believed to be the highest-ever verdict in the county that the lawsuit was tried in.
The lawsuit alleged that Knox College failed to provide a safe campus. Evidence from the trial demonstrated several fundamental security failures.
The person who killed the daughter of our client is spending a long time in prison. However, we were able to secure a verdict against the college because of its alleged contribution to her death, through improper security.
As I see it, the same legal arguments could be made against Myspace.
Thanks for raising this important issue.
Posted by: David Fish at June 22, 2006 10:00 AM