From Chat Rooms to Courtrooms: Social Media’s Role in Class-Action Lawsuits
By Alec Brooks of Kazerouni Law Group, APC posted in Injuries on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
As little as two decades ago, people were faced with a sense of isolation when dealing with defective products and/or seemingly careless and irresponsible businesses. There was no real way of knowing if others had similar negative experiences other than months and months of research, or waiting around long enough for the problem to transpire globally through word of mouth. Though, the problem with information traveling that way is like the children’s game, “Telephone.” A simple comment could morph and slowly become unrecognizable as it was passed from ear to ear. Today, a class-action lawsuit can build momentum in a matter of seconds, as a virtual community has the ability to Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp themselves into one cohesive electrical unit capable of hurting any company’s reputation faster than you can say, “Hashtag.”
Old Spice: The deodorant and bodywash company has been getting thrashed on various forms of social media by people claiming the deodorant has left them with rashes as well as chemical burns. (These aren’t the allegations nor the beliefs of Kazerouni Law Group)
Proctor & Gamble Co, the creators of Old Spice, are currently being sued in a class action lawsuit by Rodney Colley of Virginia. (Case 2:16-cv-00225-MHW-KAJ)
Gawker: The popular online media company faced a Fair Labor Standards act which was heavily rooted in social media. Interns alleged they weren’t compensated for their work nor did they receive the proper training. The interns utilized Facebook groups, Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit. In their posts they’d include hashtags like, “#fairpay” and “#livingwage.” The social media aspect in this particular case was so prevalent that Gawker tried to have a restriction put on the plaintiff’s social media privileges, such as only being able to create Facebook pages and not groups, limiting their hashtags to more specific and case-relative such as, “#GawkerInternlawsuit.” In March the interns’ case was dismissed under the 2nd Circuit’s, “Primary beneficiary” test which states, “that an employer relationship isn’t created when an intern’s tangible and intangible benefits outweigh their contributions to the employer’s operation.” Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., 791 F.3d 376 (2d Cir. 2015).
Even though this wasn’t a case that came into fruition, Gawker’s attempts to restrict the plaintiff’s social media outlets is a clear indication of just how powerful a tool it has become in class action suits.
This age of information we’re living in has both its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the consumer. The consumer, more times than not, can find out in exquisite detail everything about a product or a business by simply typing its names into a cell phone. At the same time, the consumer is also often taken advantage of by technology that aims to manipulate and persuade them into making certain purchases and favoring certain products that might not be the superior option. Social media is, in a sense, a way to further level the playing field for the consumer. By giving consumers a platform in which they can mobilize, these social media outlets have the ability to keep big business in check.