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ModelMayhem Granted Rehearing in 'Failure to Warn' Case

ModelMayhem Granted Rehearing in 'Failure to Warn' Case
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Mar 16, 2015 3:24 PM PDT    Text size: 

SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for ModelMayhem.com will be back at the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday arguing that the site shouldn’t be held civilly liable in the case of two site users who lured a woman to a bogus casting call where they drugged and raped her.

ModelMayhem.com earlier this year was granted a motion for rehearing of the case by the federal appeals court.

Last year, a 9th Circuit panel tossed a lower court and ruled that the Communications Decency Act did not bar the woman’s “failure to warn” claim against ModelMayhem.com, which is operated by Internet Brands Inc.

The woman, known as Jane Doe No. 12, sued ModelMayhem.com for negligent failure to warn, claimed the company knew but failed to warn users that two men, Lavont Flanders and Emerson Callum, would use the website to lure victims to the Miami area for bogus modeling auditions. The men, she said, then drugged, raped and filmed her.

Flanders and Callum were tried and convicted and given consecutive life sentences in prison for their activities.

The case has attracted the attention of numerous Internet companies and organizations that have sided with ModelMayhem.com.

In an amicus brief, Facebook, Craigslist, Tumblr, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, The Internet Association and Care.com said that they have settled on interpretations granting broad immunity to online intermediaries for harms arising from third-party content

"Amici and their members have a substantial interest in the legal rules governing whether providers of interactive computer services may be subjected to lawsuits for alleged harms resulting from online exchanges of information,” the companies and organizations wrote in a brief to the court last fall. “Because they serve as platforms for communication among billions of users, amici have been, and inevitably will continue to be, parties to lawsuits in which they invoke immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1).

“The success of these online businesses — and the vitality of online media and online free speech generally — depends on their being shielded from the risks, burdens, and uncertainty of lawsuits that would hold them liable for hosting or facilitating online exchanges of third-party information that may result in harm.”

Oral arguments are set for April 8 at 1:30 p.m. at the 9th Circuit's Pasadena, Calif., courthouse.

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