A judge in North Carolina ordered a woman to pay $500,000 in damages after she accused an acquaintance on Facebook of killing her own son.
The target of the post, Davayne Dial, lost her child years ago in a gun accident involving another boy. However, the malicious poster, Jacquelyn Hammond, accused Dial of shooting her son herself, writing “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid.” The two women previously worked together at a radio station and even briefly planned to take it over, before falling out over a dispute.
An expert observing the case, Wake Forest University law professor Michael D. Green, expressed shock that the damages ran so high because libel is not covered by insurance. It’s unclear how Hammond will pay such an astronomical fee, or if she will at all. But the case stands as a clear sign how seriously courts are beginning to take what’s said on social media.
“I think people today don’t recognize the importance of their words,” attorney Missy Owen said. “Just because it is very easy to get your words out there does not mean you should. You can get in trouble anytime you make a false statement about someone else that damages their character or reputation. Anybody who learns about this case should think twice before angrily posting on their Facebook page about somebody else, if what they have to say is not true.”
Indeed, next time you want to pop off on Facebook with an angry post, take a deep breath and think long and hard about it first.
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