Thursday, October 10, 2013

Social Media Can Get You Sued In Tennessee

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Remember this case?

A Goodlettsville woman who works for Southwest Airlines (PDF of the original suit at this link) sued over a series of tweets made by an irate flyer. The plaintiff didn't allow the defendant to take the whole family with her when she boarded early via her Business Select status. The defendant, a singer here in Nashville, took to the Twitters to complain. Commence legal action.

The suit is good reading, if only to go through the angry set of tweets within.

At the trial court level, the defendant (the singer) won summary judgment on the defamation and invasion of privacy (false light) claims. The state appeals court yesterday, however, only upheld the trial court's punting of the defamation claims. The Southwest employee's invasion of privacy claims live on.

Richard Dinkins wrote for the court [PDF]:

... we believe that a reasonable person could find, under the entire circumstances of the incident, that Ms. Grant-Herms’ posting of selective facts placed Ms. Patterson in a false light by implying that Ms. Patterson was rude and a bad service agent, one who was more concerned with adherence to the airline rules and procedures than the welfare of the child, and that these implications caused injury to her. Considering the record, Ms. Grant-Herms has not shown she is entitled to summary judgment on the false light invasion of privacy claim.

It's a good lesson that if you're going to go on a Twitter rant, you could be opening yourself up to litigation.

David Anthony, an attorney at Bone McAllester Norton who pointed out the case to Pith, has a very good point.

Your steak is burned.Your cable goes out. You have to wait 30 minutes too long in the waiting room.

Out of boredom, anger, or some mix of it all, you go on twitter or Facebook and complain. If you really want their attention, you link your target’s twitter account. That will get their attention, you might think. Maybe they respond and apologize.

Or, maybe, they file a lawsuit against you for defamation or invasion of privacy. Yes, in Tennessee, a twitter or Facebook rant can get you sued.

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