Fred, a fifteen-year-old high school student, is teased online by a group of female cheerleaders for being awkward. Fred mentions his thoughts of suicide on social media. The cheerleaders encourage him to take his own life by posting comments on his Facebook account using high school library computers. Fred sends out a message that says, “after I kill myself, maybe you all will be happy!” The cheerleaders respond that it would make them happy. The next day, Fred overdoses and dies. Fred’s parents sue the cheerleaders, their parents and school officials in a civil lawsuit. The parents also try to encourage the prosecutor to file criminal charges.
Provide detailed answers to the following questions:
What are the possible tort actions that the parents could file against the three parties to the lawsuit? Include the elements that the parents would need to prove and their remedies.
What are the possible arguments in their defense that the cheerleaders, their parents, and school officials could make? These arguments should be made separately.
What, if any criminal charges, do you think would be appropriate, and what is your argument in support of them?
Discuss how the court/jury should decide these claims and what you think is the most persuasive evidence to support that decision.
Your paper should be 3-4 pages long and follow the APA guidelines (Links to an external site.). Each question should be answered with a full discussion and analysis with proper cyberlaw terminology. Remember that your answers should be grammatically correct and should cite resources that are not your own. For example:
When using your textbook your answer should contain in-text citations (Craig, 2013), or according to Craig (2013).
If you use direct quotes, you must explain the direct quote in your own words.
An abstract and reference page should be included in your essay.
Please provide an abstract page.Topic
Based on the scenario provided, Fred’s parents could file tort actions against cheerleaders, parents, and school officials. Fred’s parents could bring intentional torts against cheerleaders that include assault, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The parents would have to prove that Fred was assaulted by the cheerleaders causing reasonable fear of harm. They also need to prove that cheerleaders publicly defamed Fred with false statements. They would be required to prove the actions by cheerleaders were to inflict emotional distress on Fred intentionally. The possible remedy for intentional torts is specific performance. The negligence tort could be brought against cheerleaders’ parents and the school officials. Fred’s parents would have to prove the four elements of negligence, including the duty of care, breach of duty to care, causation, and harm (Baime, 2020). The plaintiff could prove that the duty of care was breached by both the cheerleaders’ parents and the school officials to control social media access. The school officials also failed to protect the school library’s computers from being misused by the students.
The possible defense argument by the cheerleaders is consent by the plaintiff to a defendant’s intentional tort. The cheerleaders would argue that the plaintiff’s presence online means he had the consent of the possibility of being teased. The cheerleaders’ defense argument that could be used is comparative negligence, whereby the negligence for controlling their children’s access to social media was on both sides of the parties involved in the lawsuit. The use of comparative negligence in defense would mean that the plaintiff percentage of recovery of damages will be reduced (Lumencadela, n.d.). The school officials on their defense argument could argue that there is an assumption of risks associated with both students accessing the internet or social platforms; hence Fred was expected to understand the risks of assault. The school officials could prove that despite the cheerleaders using the library computers, they still had access to social media even in their homes, with both expected to know the associated risks.
The possible criminal charges that can be brought against the defendants is involuntary manslaughter through negligence. Involuntary manslaughter through negligence involves a person committing a lawful act, but by doing so, use the level of negligence that goes beyond what a reasonable person would do or above typical civil negligence, resulting in death (Johnson, 2013). Parents of Fred on this charge must prove that the negligence actions of the cheerleaders, their parents, and school official had resulted in the death of their child. The cheerleaders could have acted above typical civil negligence by neglecting Fred’s duty of care when they responded that they could be happy if he killed himself. The school officials’ failure to perform their duty of safeguarding the school library computers for being misused by students could also be used to prove involuntary manslaughter.
Based on the evidence in the scenario, the court or jury should find the cheerleaders, their parents, and the school officials responsible for the tort actions brought against them. The cheerleaders should be considered to have been in breach of intentional tort by directing assaults, use of defamation, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress towards Fred, resulting in his action. The cheerleaders’ parents should be considered to have acted negligently by failing to carry on their duty to control their children’s access to social media platforms and the internet. However, the comparative negligence defense will mean the recovery damages that should be paid by the parents are reduced as Fred’s parents had failed to conduct a similar duty. The officials would be subjected to provide recovery damages as they had acted in negligence when they failed to protect students from accessing the computers in the library without proper supervision. The most persuasive evidence to support the decision includes the cheerleads posting on Fred’s Facebook account using high school library computers and the failure of the cheerleaders to act within reasonable negligence by posting the comments.
Baime, E. (2020). Fundamentals of Tort Law. National Juris University. Retrieved from https://nationalparalegal.edu/FundamentalsTortLaw.aspx
Facebook. (2020). Bullying and harassment. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/bullying
Johnson, J. (2013). What are the degrees of murder? FreeAdvice. Retrieved from https://criminal-law.freeadvice.com/criminal-law/violent_crimes/degrees.murder.htm
Lumencadela. (n.d.). Law 101: Fundamentals of the Law: General Law of Torts. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-monroe-law101/chapter/general-law-of-torts/