Paralegal Sues Facebook Friend for Infliction of Emotional Distress

Facebook doesn’t just have ethics pitfalls for legal professionals – it has emotional pitfalls, too, just like it does for everyone else.

According to the Tri City Herald, an unemployed Michigan paralegal, Cheryl Gray, is suing her former Facebook friend for “misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress” and is asking for $8,386.88 in damages, after what she believed was a blossoming online romantic relationship suddenly went sour.

The Tri City feature article contains all the details about the short online relationship, but to make a very long and likely not uncommon Facebook story short, Gray met a man while playing Mafia Wars, started chatting with him privately, and then spent over $900 buying gifts for him and planning a week-long trip to his hometown to meet him, even purchasing tickets for them to attend the opening Mariners’ home game.

But a week before the trip, the man indicated he’d very recently met someone else, although Gray was welcome to visit as planned, but just as “my friend.”

Gray apparently was not happy to visit as only a friend, and things turned ugly after that. He says she started an online hate group about him, and also lied about her age. He admits calling her a “psycho bitch” – but only after he found out about the hate group. Gray describes herself as “shocked, humiliated and embarrassed” after the online fiasco, and says that she filed the lawsuit “as a warning to others.”

Will the lawsuit fly? The Tri-City Herald interviewed Eric Goldman, an associate professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law in California and blogger at Technology & Marketing Law Blog, who said judges are reluctant to get in the middle of lovers’ quarrels, but the success of a lawsuit could depend on whether the relationship was only a scam to obtain gifts and money from the victim.

Gray says she fell in love online and never in her wildest dreams thought this would happen to her. In our increasingly online world, many of us, including me, have met the loves of their lives via social media and dating sites, but no doubt, many more have had their hearts broken – or their expectations, built solely on online representations, shattered after meeting in person.

What do you guys think? Are civil suits the way to go after failed online relationships, especially if expensive gifts and plane tickets have been purchased, or should the jilted parties quietly nurse their wounds and be more careful before investing their hearts – and their checkbooks – the next time?

Source:  Tri City Herald

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