Houston lawyer Jason M. Medley, as next friend to his daughter, has filed a libel suit on her behalf against three middle-school students who allegedly posted a video on the social networking site Facebook.
Medley says the intention in filing the June 14 suit was not for publicity or to “get on a pedestal and make some kind of an example” of cyber-bullying. “It is my goal to protect my daughter, not to make greater publicity over an event that was harmful to her,” Medley says.
The plaintiff, a minor identified in the petition as “S.M.” and in an attached cease-and-desist letter as Medley’s daughter, alleges the defendants made “several statements alleging untrue facts, as well as other suggestive, derogatory, inflammatory and sexually explicit statements and gestures” regarding her in the video, which was posted on Facebook on May 18. (Texas Lawyer is not naming S.M. or the defendants because they are minors.)
In her petition in Medley a/n/f S.M., a Minor v. Moore, et al., filed in Harris County’s 157th District Court, the plaintiff alleges “several individuals and peers” reportedly witnessed and commented on the video on Facebook and “otherwise.”
“The video speaks for itself, and given its graphic nature, the statements published therein are not repeated here. The video was apparently identified by Facebook as abusive representations and [violative] of their policy and has since been removed,” the plaintiff alleges.
The plaintiff alleges statements published in the video are defamatory and false and the defendants were acting with actual malice. The actions of the defendants constitute libel per se, negligence and defamation, she alleges.
S.M. seeks unspecified actual damages, costs and interest, and a “permanent injunction enjoining the Defendants from further threatening or defaming” her. She alleges in the petition, “Given the nature of the video, and the reference to fighting mentioned therein, Plaintiff is in danger of physical harm and retaliation, and is in danger of further libel or slanderous activity by the Defendants.”
Medley says he did not ask Facebook to remove the video, but he did report it as abusive, and Facebook removed it “immediately.”
Medley, a shareholder in O’Donnell, Ferebee, Medley & Keiser of Houston, says he filed the suit on behalf of his daughter because the parents of the three students did not respond to a May 20 cease-and-desist letter he mailed to them or to May 27 follow-up letters.
In the cease-and-desist letter, attached to the plaintiff’s petition as Exhibit A, Medley asks the parents of the three students to avoid litigation by entering into an agreed permanent injunction that would prohibit the students from communicating with his daughter in any way, including through Facebook, and for each student to make a donation of at least $5,000 to the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.
“My hope is the parents will respond. They have not. They have ignored me,” Medley says.
Parents of the three defendants could not be reached by telephone at the addresses listed for them.