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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