Woman Sues Match.com Because She Was Assaulted By Someone She Met On Site

from the misplaced-liability dept

A few years back, there was an online dating site, whose main differentiator was that it would supposedly do background checks on anyone who joined. That company had a habit of not just playing up this differentiator, but of trying to get laws passed that would make life difficult for other dating sites -- such as forcing them to put a warning on every page reading: "WARNING: WE HAVE NOT CONDUCTED A FELONY-CONVICTION SEARCH OR FBI SEARCH ON THIS INDIVIDUAL." Thankfully, it doesn't seem like those lobbying efforts have gotten very far, but I'm reminded of this because of a new lawsuit filed against Match.com by a woman, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the site. This is, of course, horrible. But the fault lies with the guy, not with Match.com

In fact, the whole thing seems suspiciously similar to those old attempts to get such laws passed, in that the woman isn't asking for monetary damages, but to require Match.com to run background checks on everyone. Of course, this is a liability question and it's difficult to see how Match.com could or should be liable here. Obviously, when you meet someone you don't know, there are risks, but pinning the liability on the tool people use to meet seems quite problematic.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rob Bodine (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 11:55pm

    Stupid

    This suit was filed just in case people were forgetting how dumb lawsuits could get. I hope that, despite this woman's tragedy, she's hammered for attorneys' fees.

     

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  2.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 11:59pm

    Responsibility

    Personal responsibility? Shitty luck? What's that? Someone's responsible, and it could never be me. I'm entitled to an entirely safe existence no matter what boneheaded crap I do, damnit. It's the American way!

     

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  3.  
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    That Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:23am

    Personal responsibility has been dead in the US for a while now. Its been replaced with whoever has the most money, is responsible.

    So many news stories explain how its not your fault -

    Your kid is fat, its McDonalds fault not yours for never telling your kid no or giving him a freaking piece of fruit.

    Your kid acts out using a stick as a gun! Its the fault of video games, which never touches on how your kid got $50-60 to buy it.

    Your kid saw a boob in a movie, now he will be a sexual predator!

    When she looses I hope that no "rights" groups get up in arms about it being unfair, and rather invest some of that coverage in teaching people how to deal with strangers 101.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:46am

    5.00 bottle of mace would of stopped this. There is only one person to blame, and that's the perpetrator. I listened to the interview on CNN and its horrible that these things happen to anyone, but when you meet someone you take a chance, just like you take a chance when you drive a car, fly in a plane, wake up, or even sleep. The world is full of randomness and not one person, nor one company, nor the government, can insure safety. That is up to only one person, and that's yourself...even then, you can be powerless.

     

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    Mr. Oizo, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:11am

    How about the police instead of lawyers ?

    Maybe she shold go to the police instead of her lawyers.

     

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  6.  
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    Lutomes (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:14am

    I remember when I was online dating. Almost every girl asked if I was a "serial killer or something".

    I only ever answered with "Technically not, the bodies were never found." or something similar. I couldn't believe how trusting some of the girls were of a complete stranger.

    I can't believe one of them even let me take her up on a mountain drive, for champagne in the woods at midnight. All on a first date!

    If I was a bad person, there is no way they would have found the body...

    Awesome night though ;)

     

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  7.  
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    That Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 3:36am

    Re:

    Because she believed the stories?

    The Government is your friend, the checks in the mail, and nah I won't *COUGH* in your mouth?
    :D

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 4:29am

    In other news a local bar has been sued by a woman who after hooking up with a random male was sexually assaulted by said male.

    The victim stated the bar should have conducted extensive background checks including taking DNA samples and fingerprints to ensure the random male was not a sexual predator.

    An outspoken attorney general has proposed an immediate change to the law requiring all social gatherings of more than one person be subjected to a three factor screening. This will include:

    DNA sampling
    Iris scanning
    Anal probing

    When questioned on the anal probing the attorney general stated this was imperative because many sexual predators are also terrorists and often hide liquids in their anuses for use in bomb making.

    The TSA has applauded the proposed changes and have volunteered to oversee all such screening, saying "we can kill two birds with one anal probing".

     

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    Griff (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 4:52am

    Re:

    In other news the law will be extended to all other places where single adults might hook up.

    weddings (you must now screen your guests)
    out walking your dog (parks must now have a security screen on the gate)
    supermarkets (loyalty cards to now work with DHS)
    the school gate (school districts in league with TSA)
    the beach
    public streets

    The perp, meanwhile, will sue match.com for hooking him up with someone he later went on to assault, claiming "they should have prevented this, it has ruined my life".

    Match.com will sue google for lowering everyone's expectations of what things cost on the internet making it unfeasible for them to screen everyone.

    Lawyers will sue CNN for publicising the event thus reducing the likelihood of lucrative repeat events.

    Microsoft will unearth an obscure patent related to an algorithm for choosing a victim and sue the perp.

    MPAA will claim the whole incident was the plot of some movie noone ever watched and sue everyone for copyright.

    SCO will try to claim Match.com is somehow based on an
    infringing version of Linux.

    TAM will claim that Mike Masnick said online dating should be free.

    Various senators will try and pass a "Clear Tubes Act" written by lobbyists which will allow online dating packets to be prioritised.

    Some college pal of the match.com founder will unearth a restauraunt napkin on which supposedly a deal was signed to give him half the company.

    Jonathon Tasini will claim that he posted stuff in his Match.com profile without payment and has just realised match.com are making money and hence some it should be his.

    And (to quote Del Amitri) we'll all be lonely tonight, and lonely tomorrow... (see link above)

     

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  10.  
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    Somebody, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 4:53am

    This just in!

    Women sues (the estate of) Alexander Graham Bell because she was assaulted by someone she met talking on a phone.

    Women sues the City of Denver because she was assaulted by someone she met in Denver.

    Women sues restaurant because someone she was assaulted by took her there.

    Women sues planet Earth because she was assaulted by someone from there.

     

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    zegota (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 5:44am

    While I agree Match.com is not liable, all the victim blaming ("You should take *personal responsibility* for being raped!") in the comments is really disgusting.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    I don't think that's what they mean. Sexual assault tends to bring out some people with VERY strong opinions (as it should), but I'm fairly sure that they aren't saying it was her fault. I think that they're saying she should take responsibility for the fact that she went somewhere with a guy she didn't really know yet and put herself in a bad situation.

    Rape is never the victim's fault. On the other side of the coin, we all have some amount of personal responsibility to not head to a secluded location with a strange dude.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re:

    Alright, I have a little to add to this.

    She then apparently went online and discovered that he had several previous convictions for sexual battery.

    If she did this after, she could have done it before hand. We shouldn't have to do that, but people are creepy these days. I wouldn't take DH on a date with me.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    There are services you can do background checks yourself. Even then just like posted above, she seems to have done it herself after the fact. Hindsight is always 20/20 yes? This is just commenting on her actions, it's really sad this is necessary in the first place,but that's how it is.

     

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  15.  
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    Eric Goldman (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:31am

    47 USC 230 immunizes Match.com from this lawsuit. It's amazing how little of the press reports have noted that obvious fact. Eric.

     

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  16.  
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    Joe Dirt, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Re:

    Really? Who said that?

     

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  17.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    If they claim that they do background checks on all persons as part of the service and they did not do one on this person they could open them selves to liability or at least breach of contract.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:04am

    So if I meet someone in a bar and I am assulted can I sue the bar for letting them in?

     

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    monkyyy, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    yes, but im not sure if they did or didnt

     

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  20.  
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    Danny, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 9:05am

    Reversal!

    Okay pop quiz if this were a man who hooked up with a woman on a dating site and said woman, oh I don't know, stole from him (like cleaned out his wallet or something) would anyone (other than the guy himself) be really trying to argue that Match.com was responsible for checking that woman's background?

    What I'm getting at is are the strong opinions coming from the fact that this was a sexual assault or from the belief that Match.com should do backgroung checks on everyone.

     

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  21.  
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    Irving, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Sorry to inject a bit of logic

    If she didn't go through a security check to sign up on the site, how could she claim expectation that everyone else did?

    It seems to me that the case fails right there.

     

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  22.  
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    Frylock (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re: Sorry to inject a bit of logic

    You damn well should be sorry for injecting logic. We'll have none of that anywheres near this lawsuit.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Re:

    47 USC 230 immunizes Match.com from this lawsuit. It's amazing how little of the press reports have noted that obvious fact. Eric

    I was going to put that into the post... but I wasn't entirely sure that's true. I thought Section 230 doesn't cover criminal activity (only civil), and would this be considered criminal activity?

     

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  24.  
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    Frylock (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, 47 USC 230 covers only two things, neither of which are relevant here: blocking content and notification of filtering software.

     

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  25.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    Re:

    "So if I meet someone in a bar and I am assulted can I sue the bar for letting them in?"

    Bars tend not to require you to sign up to use their services. I'm not saying the comparison doesn't have merit, but a bar is not very similar to a dating site.

     

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  26.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Reversal!

    "Okay pop quiz if this were a man who hooked up with a woman on a dating site and said woman, oh I don't know, stole from him (like cleaned out his wallet or something) would anyone (other than the guy himself) be really trying to argue that Match.com was responsible for checking that woman's background?"

    I'm struggling to see your point here. Theft isn't remotely similar to assault apart from also being a crime. Also, what is the point of reversing genders in your example? I only ask because you specifically refer to doing so.

     

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  27.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Sorry to inject a bit of logic

    "If she didn't go through a security check to sign up on the site, how could she claim expectation that everyone else did?"

    I don't see a down side to the site being pro active about informing users of risks involved (although no where near to the extent referenced in the article), but I agree entirely with your point.

     

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  28.  
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    Irving, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Sorry to inject a bit of logic

    I don't see a downside to that either (except for the addition of yet more legalese to read through/ignore before getting on with accessing an interactive system). I was referring only to the lawsuit.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Reversal!

    The point is, that it's the same thing: a dating site was used to introduce 2 people, one committed a crime against the other, original party sues dating site. It matters not what the crime is (or at least it shouldn't matter).

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Re: Sorry to inject a bit of logic

    The downside is that it perpetuates the (wrong, IMHO) fallacy that no one is responsible for their own actions; i.e. a third party should always be able to be blamed for anything untoward that happens to an individual.

     

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  31.  
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    Huph, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Let's Think a Little Deeper

    Yes, the woman should have exercised more critical judgment before agreeing to meet a stranger (Then again, this occurred after the second date; the guy was probably a class act the first time out). But, a lot of the comparisons drawn between this and say meeting a person at a bar are a little off the mark. Match.com, for all intents and purposes, *recommended* this man to her as a suitable date. I'm not saying they're to blame, but if *I* set up a blind date between 2 friends and one of them assaulted the other, I would feel a little personal responsibility for what happened.

    And seriously, it's easy to point out the woman's fault for only researching the man's past after the crime, but by the same token Match.com should have easily been able to screen in the same way beforehand. They took his credit card info and verified that, at which point it's quite easy to run a background check against police blotters, which are all public. Employers do criminal background checks every single day, and that's for people they'll most likely deal with on a much less intimate level.

    If Match.com has algorithms that can find "the one" for you, then I have to believe it wouldn't be much more difficult to write an algorithm to scrape publicly available criminal records. Hell, they could be helping track down fugitives in this manner. Someone tries to register and up pops an outstanding warrant? Turn it over to the authorities. Match.com would be heroes.

     

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