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Texas teen: How much of a case?

The story of the Texas 14-year-old who is suing MySpace, News Corp, and her alleged assailant for sexual assault is a tragic one, but there are indicators it’s not a strong case (see my earlier “Teen suing MySpace”). “In total, the suit seeks damages of $30 million. But … insofar as the suit names MySpace and News Corp. as defendants, it is on shaky ground,” writes University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry in FindLaw.com. “The girl’s damages may, in practice, be limited to those she can recover from [19-year-old alleged assailant Pete] Solis himself.” The professor looks at several assumptions and current law, but “on the topic of responsibility for the fates of underage customers,” she points to a tragic case in Seattle in which seven people, including two teenagers, were shot in a shooting spree at a party after an all-ages rave. “Should the club that hosted the rave be responsible for the harm that followed at the separate after-hours party? Similarly, should pen pal clubs, and newspapers that publish personal ads, be penalized if predators exploit their services to lie about their age and/or engage in harmful behavior?” Ramasastry continues: “One reason to say no is that it may be unfair to put these institutions in the position of policing their users’ activities in places the institutions don’t control” (please see her article to get the connection). An editorial in the UK’s The Register makes a similar point in The Register’s unique style.

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