Georgia Court of Appeals Suggest Parents Can Be Liable for Their Child’s Online Bullying
Our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been actively involved in efforts to help stop bullying, through the firm's Ambassador for Kids Anti-Bullying program (a4kclub.org) and various community activities. News across the country regularly reports on kids being harassed and humiliated by their peers on social media sites. In some cases, the pattern of harassment and persecution is so intense that online bullying has resulted in physical confrontations and suicides. Some parents of bullied students have fought back by pursuing lawsuits against school districts and others responsible adults who fail to adequately intervene to stop a pattern of harassment before it has tragic consequences.
A recent Georgia Court of Appeals case suggests that parents might be liable for damages if they fail to take sufficient measures to stop their kids from using the internet to bully their classmates. In Boston v. Athearn, the court voiced concerns about parents who fail to reign in patterns of harassment by their kids.
The case involved a middle school student who in conjunction with another student secured an email account in the name of Alexandria Boston, the harassment victim. The bullies created a Facebook page in the victim's name and posted embarrassing altered photos and fabricated postings that were falsely purported to be posted by the victim. The information posted on the Facebook page involved libelous statements involving racist comments, use of illicit drugs and misrepresentation of victim's sexual orientation.
When the parents of the perpetrator of the online bullying were notified of their child's inappropriate conduct, they did nothing more than ground their child for a one week period. The Facebook page remained live for almost a year because the parents of the offending child did not take steps to have the page pulled down. This lack of intervention by the parents of the bullying child resulted in the continued humiliation and harassment of the victim based on the embarrassing information posted on the Facebook page.
The Court of Appeals for Georgia remanded the case back to the trial court to consider awarding damages against the parents of the bully based on an evaluation of the extent of the negligence by the parents of the bully. Further, the court suggested that each instance of someone accessing the libelous information could be viewed as a separate case of injury being suffered by the victim. While it is not clear yet what damages, if any, will be awarded, this decision clearly suggests that parents risk exposure to liability if they turn a blind eye to their child's online activities.
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If your child is harmed by online harassment or bullying, your child might have a right to financial compensation for his or her injuries and loss. Our personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.