An Oklahoma mother was arrested for allegedly attempting to sell her children on Facebook, Mashable reports.
Misty VanHorn, a mother of two in Oklahoma, was arrested last month for alleged trafficking of minors on Facebook by offering her 10-month old and her 2 year-old for $4,000. According to the police report, VanHorn offered the kids several times on the social network — offering the 10-month old girl for $1,000, or a package deal with the two of them for $4,000. And she apparently had a taker.
“Just come to Sallisaw, it’s only 30 minutes away and I’ll give you all of her stuff and let y’all have her forever for $1,000,” read VanHorn’s Facebook message to the Fort Smith woman, as unearthed in the police report by the Daily Dot.
Ironically, police believe VanHorn wanted the $1,000 to bail her boyfriend out of jail. Now she’s being held on a $40,000 bond. The children are in the custody of the state’s department of human services, which alerted the police in the first place.
It amazes me the things people will say and do on social media. Last year, I reported on a woman who was arrested for allegedly attempting to hire a hitman over Facebook to murder the father of her child. This is yet another example of how what you say on social media can (and will) be used against you.
A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled today that a woman who sent a text message to her boyfriend while he was driving cannot be held liable for the motor vehicle accident he subsequently caused, ABC News reports. A different ruling could have sparked a series of vicarious liability actions for “Facebook while driving” lawsuits.
The decision stemmed from a 2009 case in which Kyle Best was responding to a text message from his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, while he was driving his pickup truck when he crashed into a motorcycle and severely injured David and Linda Kubert.
In an unprecedented legal twist, the plaintiff’s attorney amended the original complaint filed against Best to include Colonna as a defendant in the case, saying that she had been in frequent texting contact with Best throughout the day and ought to have known he was driving.
But Judge David Rand ruled today in Morris County Superior Court that Colonna could not be held responsible for Best’s distracted driving. “Drivers are bombarded with all forms of distractions,” Rand told the courtroom, according to The Star-Ledger, a newspaper in New Jersey. “I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense. I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts. Were I to extend this duty, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case.”
Had the judge reached the opposite result, this decision could have opened the floodgate for vicarious liability in “Facebook while driving” lawsuits against those who messaged others on Facebook knowing that they were driving. The Facebook Chat feature operates similar to a text message since Facebook’s mobile application notifies users when messages are received. Facebook’s mobile app also notifies users when they are tagged in photographs, invited to events, or receive “friend” requests, among other things. Twitter mobile applications send similar notifications. While the plaintiff was unsuccessful in this “texting while driving” lawsuit, it may only be a matter of time until we see a lawsuit seeking vicarious liability over Facebook or Twitter messages.
The Social Media Guide for Lawyers v. 2.0 is hot off the presses. The Guide serves as a practical resource for how lawyers and law firms can use social media to practically, ethically, and responsibly promote their practice. I had the pleasure of co-authoring the Guide with the esteemed members of the 2010-11 Meritas Leadership Institute.
The first edition of the Guide served as a “Social Media 101” for lawyers. It featured a “Best Practices Guide” on how law firms and individual lawyers can use social media to add value and generate business, provided step-by- step instructions for effectively using the “Big Three”—LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter—and included sample social media policies for law firms as they established parameters for social media use within their firms. We have incorporated the majority of that text within the second edition for those just diving into the social media pool.
Version 2.0 elevates lawyers and law firms to the second level of social media use: how to use social media to effectively promote their practice. It shows lawyers and law firms how to harness social media to their advantage by integrating “traditional” media with these new technologies to further expand visibility and exposure. As with the first edition, the goal is not to convince lawyers that social media is the only tool for business development, but rather to demonstrate how social media can serve as yet another tool in a lawyer’s marketing toolbox. Accordingly, version 2.0 of the Guide features:
- A list of Facebook’s new features, including Timeline and the new privacy settings,
- Step-by-step guides for creating and using LinkedIn Groups and Twitter Lists, and
- Tips for effectively using social media to share “traditional” marketing materials.
We hope lawyers and law firms find Version 2.0 of the Guide to be a helpful resource to navigate the sea of social media marketing. Many professionals outside the legal industry have also found the Guide applicable in their profession. We are always happy to receive feedback as we plan to update the Guide annually to address new innovations that can assist lawyers leverage their marketing on social media.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are jockeying for position to represent shareholders who invested in Facebook’s initial public offering, Law.com reports.
Shareholders filed multiple lawsuits against Facebook, Zuckerber and the IPO’s underwriters, including Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants misled investors about Facebook’s financial health, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars as the stock’s price fell following the IPO. The plaintiffs further allege that the disclosures to the public about Facebook’s business operations were insufficient, and that it should have disclosed to everyone — not just the underwriting banks that invested in the company leading up to the IPO — that analysts were aware of the risks. But before Facebook and others will stand trial, the question of which Plaintiffs’ firm will lead the charge remains.
Under federal securities litigation rules, the law firm representing the client with the biggest potential loss serves as lead counsel, and those clients are usually institutional investors, Law.com reports. Generally, law firms have 60 days after announcing a lawsuit to amass all potential clients. Thus, the leader of the pack may not emerge until this deadline expires.
Shareholders sued Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg following for allegedly hiding the social media company’s weakened growth forecasts ahead of its $16 billion initial public offering (IPO), according to Yahoo! finance.
The lawsuit claimed that Facebook, Zuckerman, and co-defendants Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase concealed “a severe and pronounced reduction” in revenue growth forecasts resulting from greater use of Facebook’s mobile app or website through mobile devices. It also accused Facebook of telling its bank underwriters to “materially lower” their forecasts for the company. The lawsuit said the underwriters disclosed the lowered forecasts to “preferred” investors only, instead of all investors.
According to the article, Reuters reported that Facebook advised analysts for its underwriters to reduce their profit and revenue forecasts during its IPO road show. It also said that underwriters cut their forecasts after the May 9 prospectus was filed but that these cuts were not publicly revealed before the IPO.
The lawsuit styled Brian Roffe Profit Sharing Plan et al v. Facebook Inc et al, filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 12-04081, seeks class-action status, compensatory damages, and other remedies.
A group of consumers who unsuccessfully sued Facebook for using their names and photos in ads will not have to pay the social networking service’s legal bills, according to Media Post.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg rejected Facebook’s attempt to recoup $700,000 in attorneys’ fees following its successful dismissal of a lawsuit about whether its Friend Finder featured violated California’s publicity law. That law says that people have the right to control the commercial use of their names and images and provides for damages of $750 per violation. The lawsuit alleged that Facebook’s Friend Finder tool unlawfully used their names and photos in ads without their consent.
Seeborg wrote that even though he dismissed the potential class-action lawsuit, he had not decided whether Facebook violated the California law. Instead, he tossed the case because the consumers could not show that they had the right to bring a case in federal court. Therefore, he said, Facebook did not prevail in a way that would entitle it to recover its legal bills.
A more detailed analysis of the Court decision to dismiss the Friend Finder lawsuit is detailed in my August 2011 post which can be found here. While Facebook was unsuccessful in recouping their attorneys fees following dismissal of this suit, the overall resolution of this lawsuit is a “victory” for the social media site in the sense that it may deter future lawsuits over its Friend Finder feature under California’s publicity law (and possibly similar laws in other states).
In a landmark ruling, a U.K. judge has paved the way for high court claims to be served via Facebook for the first time in the U.K., the Daily Business Review reports.
Lawyers for broker TFS Derivatives may use the social networking site to track down its former employee Fabio de Biase as part of a suit brought against the company by investment manager AKO Capital. Attempts to serve the claim on De Biase at his last known address have so far been unsuccessful, prompting TFS to appeal during pretrial discussions for permission to contact the disgraced broker via Facebook
This is not the first time social media has been used to serve pleadings in smaller matters within the U.K. Last May, a U.K. lawyer successfully used Facebook to serve a hard-to-find debtor in a County Court trial. The high court previously allowed an injunction to be served via Twitter. The TFS/AKO case, however, appears to be the first in which Facebook has been used to serve a high court claim.
De Biase has been granted 14 days to respond to the claim, a significant extension from the two-day deadline that is typical in commercial cases, to allow time to check his Facebook account.
Serving pleadings via social media sites is increasingly common in Australia and New Zealand. I have presented on cases from Australian courts that both permit and disallow service through social media sites. As serving pleadings through social media becomes more common abroad, I would not be surprised to see more litigants attempting to serve pleadings through these sites in the United States.
After Yahoo sued Facebook in March for patent infringement, the social networking site fired back earlier this month with a countersuit claiming that Yahoo is infringing on ten of Facebook’s patents, the Daily Business Review reports.
Facebook alleges that Yahoo is violating patents covering services such as its homepage, content optimization, relevance engine, photo-sharing service and advertisements displayed throughout the site. Facebook’s own engineers allegedly invented three of these patents, and another was co-invented by Mark Zuckerberg himself.
This is not the first time Facebook has battled over patents. In 2008, Leader Technologies Inc. sued Facebook, alleging the company infringes a patent on its data management tool. The case went to trial in Delaware district court in 2010, the first time Facebook had ever faced a jury. The jury found Facebook had infringed the patent, but it also invalidated the patent because Leader had sold the technology before seeking patent protection. Leader appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which heard oral arguments in March. The court has not yet issued an opinion.
Facebook’s countersuit can be found here.
Legal Blog Watch reports that companies like Boloco, a Boston burrito restaurant, are using their own social media followers and community to try to solve crime s such as the theft of a safe from one of their stores. According to its article featured in the Daily Business Review, Boloco posted the following to its Facebook page in late January:
$1000 cash reward for information that leads to apprehension of these 3 individuals who broke in and robbed our Boloco Berklee location last night less than 30 minutes after our team locked the doors. We added music to the video (because that’s what we do), but it was haunting even without it.
We debated about whether to share this or not – traditionally this isn’t something that is “shared”… but it’s 2012 … and we think everyone needs to see what is happening out there, and work together to reduce and one day eliminate evil people like these three.
The post was accompanied by this video. A day later, Boloco updated its Facebook page to report that it had received a “juicy” tip that might result in a $1000 cash winner provided it led to an arrest.
Private companies are following in the footsteps of law enforcement and insurance companies who already monitor social media sites for information and evidence concerning crimes and false claims. In December, I reported on how insurers and police are using information from Facebook and Twitter to nail policyholders for filing inflated or fraudulent claims. As more businesses begin to understand the power of social media, I believe the scenario described above will become more common. Business should consult with their in-house attorneys or experienced counsel on how their “self-help” measures might effect or interfere the outcome of any criminal investigation or civil liability.
Earlier this year, the JAPCA Ethics Alert Blog reported on San Diego Bar Opinion 2011-2 (May 24, 2011) addressing a hypothetical involving a lawyer who represents former employees in an employment lawsuit and sends “friend” requests on social media websites to higher level employees of the opposing party/employer identified by the client as being disgruntled. Here’s a summary of the JAPCA Ethics Alert and San Diego Bar Opinion:
- An attorney representing a former employee against his former company in a wrongful discharge action sends a “friend” request to two high-ranking employees with the client’s former company whom the client had identified as being dissatisfied with the employer and therefore likely to make disparaging comments on their social media pages. The attorney intended to use information obtained from the social media websites to advance his client’s interests in the litigation. The request provided the name of the attorney but did not reveal the reason for the request. The opinion focused on whether the friend requests violated California Bar Rules prohibiting contact with represented parties and prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in deceitful conduct.
- Even though the friend requests makes no reference to anything other than the sender’s name, the request was found to relate to the “subject matter of the representation” since the communication was motivated by a search for information about the subject matter of the representation. The opinion rejected the argument that sending a friend request to a represented party was no different from accessing an opposing party’s public website since the only reason for the friend request is to get past the restricted access on the social media page in order to gather information from the represented employee.
- The friend request violated California Bar Rules prohibiting contact with represented parties and prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in deceitful conduct. According to the opinion, a lawyer seeking to obtain information from a represented party on restricted social media websites must either: (1) obtain the consent of the represented party’s attorney and fully disclose his or her affiliation and the purpose of the friend request; or (2) seek the information through discovery.
The JAPCA Ethics Alert notes that the California Rule in question is the equivalent of Florida Bar Rule is 4-4.2. While other state’s Bar Ethics Opinions are not binding and are for prepared for guidance only, attorneys should be mindful of how a similar situation would be analyzed under the rules of their local jurisdiction. You can read more posts from the JAPCA Ethics Alert here.