One More Reason For Parents To Freak Out About Facebook: They Might Be Liable For What Their Kids Put On There!
As if it weren't enough that all good 'Muricans had to be very afraid of The Ebola, ISIL, the repeal of the Second Amendment by Executive Order, being able to get affordable health insurance or having other people be able to marry their choice of mates, now they have to be afraid of being liable for texts or for libelous stuff that their offspring cut and paste on the Facebook.
A Georgia court, in a cast styled Boston et al v. Athearn et al, has held that there may be a question of fact sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment in a case involving parents being sued for the Facebook shenanigans of their offspring.
It seems that Dustin (13 at the time) and Melissa created a fake Facebook page ostensibly for one of their classmates, Alex. Dustin used a computer supplied by his parents and the family internet account to do this. Dustin and Melissa posted altered and unflattering pictures of Alex and used the account to do status updates suggesting that Alex had racist views and was gay. The impish scalawags also used the fake account to post comments on other classmates' Facebook pages that were graphically sexual, racist or suggested that Alex was taking drugs for a mental condition. Kids will be kids, amirite?
Alex's parents contacted the school and Dustin admitted his transgressions. His parents learned of this in May of 2011 and grounded Dustin for a week. However, his parents did nothing to cause the fake account to be taken down and Alex's parents sued them in April of 2012, alleging, inter alia, that they were negligent in failing to supervise or control their child.
Dustin's parents filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that as a matter of law, they were not liable because the actions that led to this took place before they were aware of it and therefore it was not foreseeable.
The Court held that there was a question of fact in that a jury might find that the failure to take any action to remove the offending material for several months after finding out about it was the proximate cause of some of Alex's injuries. The Court therefore denied a portion of the motion for summary judgment.
It should be noted that this does not mean that the parents are liable, only that the question may be allowed to go to a jury and not dismissed early by the Court. So, stay tuned to see how deep in the doghouse Dustin gets and whether he gets written out of the will.