By reader acclaim: MySpace sued over alleged assault by date

by Walter Olson on June 21, 2006

On MySpace, a 19-year-old Texas youth approached a 14-year-old girl; his profile claimed that he was a high school senior on the football team. She says that following a series of emails and phone calls, she went out with him and their evening on the town culminated in his sexually assaulting her, for which Rupert Murdoch should pay $30 million as owner of the social networking site. Still to come: suits against shopping malls, ice cream shops and music venues for providing environments in which older teens can approach younger ones and sweet-talk them into eventual dangerous situations. (Claire Osborn, “Teen, mom sue MySpace.com for $30 million”, Austin American-Statesman, Jun. 20). Prof. Childs has more, here and here, as do Joanne Jacobs, KipEsquire and Shakespeare’s Sister.

{ 5 comments }

1 AM 06.21.06 at 4:31 am

My prediction as to how this will turn out:

Myspace’s lawyers will win on summary judgment. For this service they will charge Myspace $150,000. Plaintiff’s lawyer will appeal. Myspace will settle for $100,000, of which $50,000 will go to plaintiff. For this settlement, Myspace will pay their lawyer another $20,000. The whole process will take two years.

So in the end:

Myspace’s lawyers are $170,000 richer.

Plaintiff’s lawyer is $40,000 richer.

Court support staff (depositions etc.) are $10,000 richer.

Myspace is put through 2 years of grief and is $270,000 poorer. Myspace obviously regrets the lawsuit.

Plaintiff is put through 2 years of grief and is $50,000 richer, but in hindsight they wish they had just moved on with their life. $50,000 is not worth two years of litigation grief and public humiliation.

However the numbers turn out, the only winners will be the lawyers.

2 Deoxy 06.21.06 at 10:22 am

AM,

Sad, but all to common. As an odd optimistic whim, I hope that MySpace fights this thing out, as it would cost them only a bit more, and the plaintiff learns not to sue of silly crap.

3 AM 06.21.06 at 1:25 pm

Deoxy,

I’m hesitant to blame the plaintiff. She’s probably traumatized and looking for a way, any way, to deal with her grief.

I only wish I could talk to plaintiff and advise her of the harm of protracted litigation. The girl should put this behind her and move on with her life, not waste time and energy in this sort of litigation.

The problem is that her attorney has an incentive to extend her grief for money. If he sues and pushes it he will eventually get a settlement which will pay for his time.

At the same time, Myspace’s lawyers have an incentive to extend the case. They are probably billing by the hour. The longer the work on it, the more money in their pocket.

Economically this is what lawyers often do. They find a traumatized victim who is has lost the ability to think rationally, and extend their misery for money.

4 Ryan Frank 06.21.06 at 2:28 pm

I don’t want to call being sexually assaulted ‘silly crap’, but the reflex to blame whoever has the deepest pockets rather than the actuall bad actor(s) is something that should be suppressed.

5 Michael 06.22.06 at 3:39 pm

AM says: “I’m hesitant to blame the plaintiff. She’s probably traumatized and looking for a way, any way, to deal with her grief.”

As someone who has spent lots of time recently working with 14 year olds, I’d say it is very likely that the only thing that has traumatized this girl is that her parents found out she chose to have sex with a 19 year old. I have yet to hear the word ‘forcible’ attached to this case.

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