The Texas Ninth Court of Appeals recently affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Motiva Enterprises alleging a former employee launched “an obscene cyber-strike campaign” against a woman.
Seeking more than $1 million in damages, Chris Davis filed suit against Motiva and Chris Fournet in May 2014 in Jasper County District Court, alleging libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to her second amended petition, starting in February 2013 Fournet, posing as Davis, created a Craig’s List posting to make it seem as if she were soliciting sexual encounters with strangers.
Fournet created three ads over the span of eight months while using Motiva’s facilities during working hours, the suit alleged.
Davis further claimed that Fournet had previously used Motiva’s technology for several years to access Craig’s List for “soliciting sexual encounters” and “other pornographic, swinger life, or adult ‘friend finder’ websites” during work hours and while under Motiva’s supervision.
“Motiva knew or should have known from its ‘logged’ and ‘monitored’ information that Fournet was engaging in wrongful activity,” the suit states. “Motiva intentionally ignored Fournet's acts in violation of its Code of Conduct.”
Citing the Communications Decency Act, Motiva filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted, prompting the appeal.
The act has been interpreted to say that operators of Internet services are not to be construed as publishers, making Motiva not legally liable for the words of third parties, like Fournet, who use their services.
On April 2 Ninth Court justices affirmed the trial court’s judgment, finding the district judge did not err in dismissing Davis’ claims in accordance with the act.
Before the appeal, Judge Craig Mixson of the 1st District Court presided over the case.
Attorney Jack Carroll of the Beaumont law firm Orgain Bell & Tucker represents Motiva.
Beaumont attorney David Bernsen represents Davis.
Trial case No. 34022
Appeals case No. 09-14-00434-CV