On March 2, 2023, Meta Inc. (the parent company of Facebook) filed a motion to remove a product liability lawsuit that Kennedy, Johnson, Schwabe, and Roberge filed in CT State Court to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
The lawsuit alleges that the Instagram and Snapchat applications caused the minor plaintiff to become addicted to their products, resulting in emotional harm, and ultimately connected her with sexual predators who sexually exploited and abused her. It is one of numerous lawsuits filed against Meta Inc., as well as other social media platforms.
On March 10, 2023, KJSR filed an emergency motion to remand the case back to state court, saying a federal judge should "decline Meta's invitation to adopt the fraudulent misjoinder doctrine" because it is "unsupported by Second Circuit authority and encroaches on the jurisdiction of Connecticut state courts."
A brief Monday order on the docket by Judge Nagala indicates that a "conditional transfer order" was issued on March 15 by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Objections to that conditional order of transfer to the Northern District of California are due to Judge Nagala on Wednesday. Oral arguments are scheduled for May 17.
Recently, Law360 published an article, in which some of the information above was included. Their article is below.
KJSR will continue to report on this case as it seeks justice for those harmed by their use of social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.
“Law360 (March 21, 2023, 6:52 PM EDT) -- A products liability lawsuit that blames a "burgeoning mental health crisis" on both Snapchat and Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook, has been preliminarily snatched from Connecticut federal court by a multidistrict litigation panel, a judge's note on the docket indicates.
The case was originally filed in Connecticut state court on Jan. 24. It alleges that in 2019, "Snap directed and connected" a 12-year-old minor known only as C.O. to Reginald Sharp, a "registered sex offender" who later "coerced C.O. into sneaking out of her home in the middle of the night." The lawsuit accuses Sharp of raping C.O. when the latter was 13.
The complaint also asserts that Snap, which owns Snapchat, connected C.O. to another sex offender and former police officer named Eddie Rodriguez via its "Quick Add" product. Rodriguez allegedly sexually assaulted a then 14-year-old C.O. after offering her a ride to school.
Meta removed the case to U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on March 2, citing 141 pending cases on a federal multidistrict litigation docket created Oct. 6, 2022.
"This action is one of several lawsuits filed against various companies operating different software apps that allow users to create, share and view content with other users — companies which are lumped together under the term 'social media' — based on alleged harms stemming from use of those companies' communication apps," Meta said.
Meta said the Connecticut lawsuit was "largely identical" to the then-ongoing MDL cases except for one "material difference": "a set of nondiverse individual defendants joined for the purpose of thwarting diversity jurisdiction."
The named defendants on the original complaint were Meta Platforms Inc., Snap Inc., Snap LLC, Sharp and Rodriguez.
The plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to remand the case back to state court on March 10, saying a federal judge should "decline Meta's invitation to adopt the fraudulent misjoinder doctrine" because it is "unsupported by Second Circuit authority and encroaches on the jurisdiction of Connecticut state courts."
On March 15, Meta asked U.S. District Judge Sarala V. Nagala to walk back a previous order for expedited briefing on the plaintiffs' request for remand, saying it was "not correct" for the plaintiffs to assert that the case's injection into the MDL docket was "imminent" because the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation would not decide whether to fully accept the case until at least May 25.
But a brief Monday order on the docket by Judge Nagala indicates that a "conditional transfer order" was issued on March 15 by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Objections to that conditional order of transfer to the Northern District of California are due to Judge Nagala on Wednesday. Oral arguments are scheduled for May 17.
The original case alleged two counts of strict product liability, both as a design defect and a failure to warn; two counts of negligence; two counts of assault and battery directed at Sharp and Rodriguez; violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act; unjust enrichment; and invasion of privacy.
Sharp is listed on the Connecticut sex offender registry in connection with two sex crimes convictions in 2002 and three in 2019, a Law360 search indicated; the registry says Rodriguez was convicted of several sex crimes in 2012, 2013, and 2023. Both are incarcerated in Connecticut, the complaint said.
Meta and Snap "continue to implement and program and/or operate numerous product features in manners they know to be dangerous to young users," the complaint alleged.
"Meta and Snap understand the cost to these minor users which is why many (if not most) of their principals and designers severely restrict and/or prohibit the use of these products by their own children," the complaint said.
The complaint also claimed the companies are responsible for the ultimate harms because, in part, "both companies set out to exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology to addict users and maximize user time and engagement."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Attorneys for Meta also did not reply to inquiries, and an attorney for Snapchat did not immediately provide comment when contacted through a spokesperson.
The plaintiffs are represented by Brendan K. Nelligan and Michael R. Kennedy of Kennedy Johnson Schwab & Roberge LLC, and Matthew P. Bergman, Laura Marquez-Garrett and Glenn Draper of the Social Media Victims Law Center.
Meta is represented by Matthew H. Geelan and Patrick M. Noonan of Donahue Durham & Noonan PC, and Ashley M. Simonsen, John J. DeBoy, Nathan E. Shafroth, and Isaac D. Chaput of Covington & Burling LLP.
Snapchat is represented by James O. Craven of Wiggin & Dana LLP.
The case is V.V. et al. v. Meta Platforms Inc. et al., case number 3:23-cv-00284, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.”
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