How a fake Facebook profile led to litigation

Last Friday the Georgia Court of Appeals issued the following opinion in the case of Boston v. Athearn: link.

The case involves some mischievous seventh grade students. A couple of seventh graders decided it would be fun to create a fake facebook profile for one of their classmates, a girl, they did not like.

Using the fake profile, the kids  became facebook friends with many of their classmates and teachers. Posing as their classmate, the children posted many derogatory and offensive facebook statuses and claimed that their classmate had a mental illness and took illegal drugs.

The Plaintiffs, who are the parents of the victim suing on the victim’s behalf, filed claims against the children and their parents for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. As the opinion states, a parent can be held directly liable for their child’s tortious behavior if the parent fails to supervise or control the child “with regard to conduct which poses an unreasonable risk of harming others.”

In this case, the parents were alerted of their child’s tortious actions in May of 2011. The parents did not direct the child to delete or remove the fake facebook profile but only grounded the child for a week. The fake profile remained active for 11 months after the parents were first notified of their child’s involvement in its creation.

One of the questions presented to the Court, was whether a jury could find that the parents were negligent in failing to compel their child to remove the facebook page once they learned of its existence.

The Court answered affirmatively. They found it undisputed that the child created the facebook profile with malicious intent and that the parents “continued to be responsible for supervising [his] use of the computer and Internet after learning that he had created the unauthorized Facebook profile…..Given that the false and offensive statements remained on display, and continued to reach readers…we conclude that a jury could find that the [parents'] negligence proximately caused some part of the injury [Plaintiff] sustained from [the child's] actions….”

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Downtown Parking

In today’s paper, Augusta residents again got to read about the DDA’s proposal to install parking meters on Broad Street. link to article. You can find my other post regarding downtown parking here: link.

Reading today’s article made me wonder how the city will enforce the parking meters should the proposal pass. It stated that the private company who will install the parking meters will “handle enforcement duties for the first five years”. What exactly does that mean? Are they just writing tickets on behalf of Richmond County?

Also, what court is going to be charged with hearing appeals from the parking tickets? As you may remember, the Augusta Chronicle has reported, in an article from May discussing the enforcement of the 2 hour parking limit, that the “city has no court assigned to hear appeals from ticketed motorists, so it cannot make them pay the [parking] fines”. link

What is the point of issuing fines if they can’t be enforced?

Of course, I am sure the county will saddle the Magistrate Judges with the duty of hearing all of the parking fine appeals. I would put money on that causing the county to have to hire another judge. I wonder if Woodard accounted for that additional expenses when she stated that the parking meters would net the county around 3 million after 10 years?

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Todd Gurley and the NCAA

The Todd Gurley story has dominated the college football landscape over the past week. My facebook and twitter feeds have been full of complaints regarding the NCAA and the rules that prohibit athletes from profiting off of their autographs. Even today on SiriusXM channel 91 a host was bashing the “silly” rules.

One of the more critical articles came from Boston Globe writer Christopher L. Gasper. You can view the article here: click. Gasper is a former Patriot and NFL writer.

In short, Gasper slams the NCAA for prohibiting athletes to profit off of their signatures, likeness, etc. Gasper makes the ridiculous claim that, because of the NCAA rule book, that a player is better off being accused of rape.

Gasper fails to realize that the NCAA has not suspended Gurley. UGA has issued the suspension. Conversely, FSU has not suspended Jameis Winston.

Gasper then goes on to make the tired argument that while UGA is selling Gurley jerseys for $100 each, they aren’t selling “lab coats worn by promising chemistry students”. This is where Gasper’s argument begins to fall apart.

Gurley’s autograph is worth as much as it is because he plays at one of the most high profile college football programs in the country. UGA’s television and media contracts help make Gurley’s name more prominent. Gasper is right when he says Gurley’s autograph would be worth the same at Tennessee, Miami, or USC. All of those schools have similar exposure to UGA. That exposure is, in part, because of the investments made, over decades, by the institutions and their conferences.

Gurley could have gone to Division III school to play football and had little to no exposure. His autograph would have been worth virtual nothing. His autograph is only worth what it is because he plays at a premier football school.

Similar to how Gurley cannot profit from his autograph, lab students who invent a profitable product or medication while using a university’s time and equipment generally do not own the rights to their invention.

Gasper’s convenient “free markets and supply and demand” is no less availing in his own world. I imagine Gasper’s own employment contract does not allow him to write freelance pieces for the USA Today or New York Times. Further, I have not seen Gasper write about the inequity of the NFL’s salary cap which limits what some players otherwise might receive in the “free market”.

Gurley is going to make millions of dollars in a few short months. UGA has provided him the stage, training, and coaching that have allowed him to showcase his abilities and put him in his current position.



Parking in Downtown Augusta

It seems like the downtown parking meter debate comes around every year. Apparently Marion Williams is now championing the idea of adding parking meters: click here. Marion Williams is the same commissioner that proposed the boneheaded “veranda concept”: click here.

The Downtown Development Authority has been pushing to add parking meters from fifth to thirteenth street. The main problem parking area I, and everybody else, have seen is around the 900 block of Broad Street where many popular restaurants and stores are located.

Why not just install parking meters in the couple of blocks around that area? Is it necessary to install parking meters throughout the entire downtown?

One of the few good things that parking meters downtown would bring is more traffic to the mostly unused parking garage that cost the city 12 million dollars.

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Non-competition Agreements

Are your covenants not to compete enforceable? Many factors go into whether or not a court will enforce a non-compete agreement. Courts will not only consider, among other things, the scope, territorial limitation, and duration of the agreement, but also whether there was adequate consideration.

Georgia and South Carolina differ as to what constitutes adequate consideration.

For example, if an employer asked an at-will employee to sign an agreement as a condition of his continued employment, the courts in each state differ as to whether this alone constitutes adequate consideration.

Non-competition agreements may also be valuable tools in other situations such as partnerships, franchises, and settlement agreements. However, a non-compete agreement is only a benefit if it is enforceable.

Below I have linked two opinions discussing the issue of adequate consideration, one from the Supreme Court of South Carolina and one from the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

Supreme Court of Georgia