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May 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 3, 2010

  • Lawmakers in Georgia vote for bill to forbid forced micro-chipping after listening respectfully to “this happened to me” story [Popehat]
  • “Why does the Wall Street regulation overhaul give FTC authority over the Internet?” [Morrissey and WaPo via Gillespie]
  • “Woman alleges termination due to gender, not sleeping on the job” [SE Texas Record]
  • Writers’ Union of Canada surprisingly unfriendly toward writers’ freedom regarding fair use/fair dealing [BoingBoing]
  • Despite purported bar on strategic use, Senate bill to stay deportation of illegal aliens while workplace claims are pending would create incentive to come up with such claims [Fox, Employer's Lawyer]
  • “California Magistrate Scoffs at Plaintiff’s MySpace Page, But Awards Damages Anyway” [Abnormal Use]
  • State of free speech in Britain: police confront man over political sign in window of his home, arrest preacher over anti-gay remarks [Mail and more, Telegraph via Steyn, related from Andrew Sullivan and MWW]
  • “Should Tort Law Be Tougher on Lawyers?” [Alex Long, TortsProf]

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A California appeals court has declined plaintiffs’ invitation to hold that “a public invitation posted on MySpace to a free party offering music and alcohol was substantially certain to result in an injury to someone.” Three men were “allegedly attacked by a group of unknown individuals as they arrived at the party,” which was thrown by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and announced on the social media site. [OnPoint News]

“A Missouri mother on trial in a landmark cyberbullying case was convicted Wednesday of only three minor offenses for her role in a mean-spirited Internet hoax that apparently drove a 13-year-old girl to suicide.” Numerous critics had assailed the prosecution of Lori Drew as based on overbroad criminalization; we covered the controversy here, here, and here. (Greg Risling, AP/Buffalo News, Nov. 26).


Nowhere to hide

by Walter Olson on November 15, 2008

When your litigation opponent subpoenas your Facebook, Amazon, MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn and (locked) Twitter pages (& Likelihood of Confusion).

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September 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 29, 2008

  • Watch where you click: “Kentucky (secretly) commandeers world’s most popular gambling sites” [The Register/OUT-LAW]
  • Erin Brockovich enlists as pitchwoman for NYC tort firm Weitz & Luxenberg [PoL roundup]
  • U.K.: “Millionaire Claims Ghosts Caused Him to Flee His Mortgage, I Mean Mansion” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Prosecution of Lori Drew (MySpace imposture followed by victim’s suicide) a “case study in overcriminalization” [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; earlier; some other resources on overcriminalization here, here, and here]
  • Exonerated Marine plans to sue Rep. John Murtha for defamation [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • Snooping on jurors’ online profiles? “Everything is fair game” since “this is war”, says one jury consultant [L.A. Times; earlier]
  • Allentown, Pa. attorney John Karoly, known for police-brutality suits, indicted on charges of forging will to obtain large chunk of his brother’s estate; “Charged with the same offenses are J.P. Karoly, 28, who is John Karoly’s son, and John J. Shane, 72, who has served as an expert medical witness in some of John Karoly’s cases.” [Express-Times, AP, Legal Intelligencer]
  • School safety: “What do the teachers think they might do with the Hula-Hoop, choke on it?” [Betsy Hart, Chicago Sun-Times/Common Good]


“The use of the anti-hacking law to charge [Lori] Drew [in a notorious case of identity-hoax cruelty whose target committed suicide] was criticized by experts who said it set a dangerous precedent that could potentially make a felon out of anyone who violated the terms of service of any website — a prospect that is particularly troubling, they said, because terms-of-service agreements sometimes contain onerous provisions, are often arbitrarily and unilaterally changed by companies, and are rarely read by users.” (Kim Zetter, Wired News, Sept. 5). Earlier: May 16.


In May 2006, 14-year-old Texas girl “Julie Doe” listed herself as 18 on her MySpace profile (so she could circumvent the site’s child safety features) and snuck out of her house to surreptitiously meet with a boy she met on MySpace the previous month. Unfortunately for her, the boy was also lying; Pete Solis was not a high-school athlete, but a 19-year-old that (allegedly) raped her. (Solis claims the sex was consensual and that he didn’t know about the illegal age difference, though knowledge ususally isn’t a defense in statutory rape cases.)

The family blamed MySpace and sued in multiple jurisdictions, omitting Solis from the most recent iteration of the suit. The suit was dismissed under the website hosting immunity protections of the Communications Decency Act; and Friday, the dismissal was affirmed by a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit (via Childs). We covered the suit in detail in 2006; for that, and other MySpace litigation, see our MySpace tag.

In April, Solis pleaded guilty to reduced charges of felony injury to a child, and will serve 90 days over the course of five years, and will register as a sex offender. (Jen Biundo, “Buda teen gets 90 days in jail, seven years on sex offender list”, The Free Press (Buda), April 23). His attorney? Adam Reposa, known for other reasons. One presume’s Solis’s even more ludicrous lawsuit against MySpace has met a similar fate.


May 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2008

  • Polar bears on parade: “Lawsuits are not the best way to force the public into solving planet-size problems such as climate change.” [Christian Science Monitor editorial]
  • Jury convicts private investigator Anthony Pellicano, trial of entertainment lawyer Terry Christiansen set for July [Variety; earlier]
  • Knockoff sneakers differed from Adidas original in having two or four stripes instead of three, didn’t save Payless Shoes from getting hit with $304 million verdict [American Lawyer]
  • Following up on our discussion of municipal tree liability: Michigan high court OKs homeowner class action over sewer line damage from city trees [AP/MLive]
  • Attorney Franklin Azar, of Colorado TV-ad fame, says jury’s verdict ordering him to pay a former client $145,000 was really a “big victory” for him [ABA Journal]
  • Annals of tolling-for-infancy: “Dog bite 10 years ago subject of civil suit” [MC Record]
  • Feds indict Missouri woman for cruel MySpace hoax that drove victim to suicide: Orin Kerr finds legal grounds weak [@ Volokh]
  • “I blame R. Kelly for Sept. 11″: some ways potential jurors managed to get off singer’s high-profile Chicago trial [Tribune; h/t reader A.K.]
  • Update: “click fraud” class actions filed in Texarkana against online ad providers have all now settled [SE Texas Record; earlier]
  • Judge orders dad to stay on top of his daughter’s education, then jails him for 180 days when she fails to get her general equivalency diploma [WCPO, Cincinnati; update, father released]
  • Lawyers still soliciting for AOL volunteer class actions [Colossus of Rhodey; earlier]


February 23 roundup

by Ted Frank on February 23, 2008

  • Easterbrook: “One who misuses litigation to obtain money to which he is not entitled is hardly in a position to insist that the court now proceed to address his legitimate claims, if any there are…. Plaintiffs have behaved like a pack of weasels and can’t expect any part of their tale be believed.” [Ridge Chrysler v. Daimler Chrysler via Decision of the Day]
  • Retail stores and their lawyers find sending scare letters with implausible threats of litigation against accused shoplifters mildly profitable. [WSJ]
  • Kentucky exploring ways to reform mass-tort litigation in wake of fen-phen scandal. [Mass Tort Prof; Torts Prof; AP/Herald-Dispatch; earlier: Frank @ American]
  • After Posner opinion, expert should be looking for other lines of work. [Kirkendall; Emerald Investments v. Allmerica Financial Life Insurance & Annuity]
  • Judge reduces jury verdict in Premarin & Prempro case to “only” $58 million. And I still haven’t seen anyone explain why it makes sense for a judge to decide damages awards were “the result of passion and prejudice,” but uphold a liability finding from the same impassioned and prejudiced jury. Wyeth will appeal. [W$J via Burch; AP/Business Week]
  • Judge lets lawyers get to private MySpace and Facebook postings. [OnPoint; also Feb. 19]
  • Nanny staters’ implausible case for regulating salt. [Sara Wexler @ American; earlier: Nov. 2002]
  • Doctor: usually it’s cheaper to pay than to go to court. [GNIF BrainBlogger]
  • Trial lawyers in Colorado move to eviscerate non-economic damages cap in malpractice cases [Rocky Mountain News]
  • Bonin: don’t regulate free speech on the Internet in the name of “campaign finance” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Executives face greater risks—but investors are no safer.” [City Journal]
  • Professors discuss adverse ripple effects from law school affirmative action without mentioning affirmative action. Paging Richard Sander. Note also the absence of “disparate impact” from the discussion. [PrawfsBlawg; Blackprof]
  • ATL commenters debate my American piece on Edwards. [Above the Law]


Paul McNamara, at NetworkWorld, takes exception, calling the Houston lawyer’s pronouncement a “steaming pile of flapdoodle” (Jan. 19; Joe Garofoli, “Families of sexually abused girls sue MySpace, alleging negligence”, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 19)(earlier).


“Four families have sued News Corp. and its MySpace social-networking site after their underage daughters were sexually abused by adults they met on the site, lawyers for the families said Thursday.” (Jessica Mintz, AP/LA Times, Jan. 19). Earlier: Jul. 19 and links therein.

Update: Link fixed.


On the radio

by Walter Olson on July 21, 2006

Yesterday I was a guest on two radio shows. I joined Ron Smith on Baltimore’s WBAL to discuss my article, just out, on the lawsuit against MySpace for failing to chaperone a teenage user. And I joined Grover Norquist on his Rightalk broadcast to talk about the politics of liability reform.

I’ve got a new online column up at the British paper, my second. I discuss the recent lawsuit seeking to blame the social-networking site for not providing a virtual chaperone for a 14-year-old Texas user who went out on an inadvisable date. (Walter Olson, “Teens, sex, and MySpace”, Times (U.K.), Jul. 18). For earlier coverage of the MySpace suit, see Jun. 21, Jun. 23, and Jun. 26.

Tom Zeller, writing on the MySpace lawsuit, quotes observers who unanimously condemn the species of nanny-state lawsuit, and quotes blogger Ken Chan:

“I recognize that there’s a certain part of the population who don’t know a steady fried chicken diet is bad for them. I feel bad for these people,” Mr. Chan wrote. “However, these are probably the same people who don’t put on their seatbelts and who suck down endless coffee during the day and Coors at night. So let’s be honest with ourselves here. You’re not going to save these people. You’re just screwing up the chicken for the rest of us.”

Zeller probably didn’t get the memo from the Times editors about the “benefits” of such lawsuits, but we’ll no doubt see some plaintiffs’ attorney defending the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit in the letters section. (Tom Zeller Jr., “A Lesson for Parents on ‘MySpace Madness'”, New York Times, Jun. 26). Mildly related, and encouraging for what it says about people starting to be annoyed by the food police: Fluffernutter controversy in Massachusetts.

Via Childs, Pete Solis, the 19-year-old who allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old Austin, Texas, girl whose family is suing the MySpace website where the two met, is, Time Magazine reports, contemplating his own litigation against MySpace on the grounds that it made him think he was meeting a 15-year-old.

“MySpace wasn’t there when they went to Whataburger. MySpace wasn’t there when they went to the movie and MySpace wasn’t there when they climbed in the backseat,” [Solis attorney Adam] Reposa said. “Meeting on MySpace — if that alone is enough, then we can make the same claim for damages.”

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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 for $30 million”, Austin American-Statesman, Jun. 20). Prof. Childs has more, here and here, as do Joanne Jacobs, KipEsquire and Shakespeare’s Sister.