Dustin, with a little help from Melissa, created a fake Facebook account and used it to pick on Alexandria, one of their classmates. The court doesn’t give us details in the opinion, but you can imagine how cruel 13-year olds can be to other 13-year olds. When they found out about this, Alexandria’s parents had a pretty good idea of who was behind it, and reported their suspicions to the school principal. The principal called in Dustin and Melissa, both of whom sang like canaries with written confessions. The principal imposed disciplinary consequences.
So did Dustin’s parents. But according to the subsequent lawsuit, that’s all that they did. They did not contact Facebook. They made no effort to get the account deleted. Many months went by with the defamatory material there for all to see as the Facebook account continued to attract “friends.”
Alexandria’s parents sued Dustin’s parents. The suit was based on Georgia state law, alleging that the parents were negligent for the defamation due to the “negligent supervision” of their son. The lower court tossed the case out, granting summary judgment to Dustin’s parents. But the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that this is a valid cause of action that should not be dismissed. Instead, a jury will have the opportunity to review the evidence and determine if the facts support the theory. If they do, Dustin’s parents could be held liable. Boston v. Athearn, Georgia Court of Appeals, October 10, 2014.
Notice that even though the school got pulled into this family dispute, it managed to stay out of the litigation!
DAWG BONES: SOMETIMES IT IS BEST TO STAY ON THE SIDELINES