Maryland Attorneys Assert Plaintiffs’ Rights in Internet Harassment Lawsuits
Knowledgeable lawyers secure relief for victims of cyberstalking
New technology in the hands of disturbed individuals can be a potent weapon to harass innocent persons. This is clearly the case with the internet, cellphones and social media, which too often become tools to liable, humiliate, denigrate, threaten and otherwise harass whatever targets provoke their baser instincts. At Smouse & Mason, LLC, our knowledgeable attorneys have extensive experience in internet harassment cases. We help our clients stop relentless, hostile treatment, and in many cases can even secure civil damages to compensate victims for their suffering. We can evaluate your case thoroughly and advise you on the best strategy for protecting your rights and putting a stop to harassment.
Strategy for pursuing civil remedies for internet harassment
Internet harassment, often called cyberstalking, is characterized by a repeated course of conduct aimed at a particular person and designed to cause emotional distress and fear of physical harm. It differs from cyberbullying, which is also a serious problem, in that cyberbullying refers to actions of minors towards other minors. Cyberstalking can include threats of violence (often sexual), posting lies presented as facts, posting sensitive information, and launching technological attacks against the targeted person’s social media accounts. Cyberstalking is a criminal offense, but law enforcement often declines to investigate or prosecute. However, a targeted person can take the initiative to file a civil lawsuit alleging the following causes of action:
- Defamation — A public statement which the speaker or publisher knew or should have known was false that damages another’s reputation.
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress — A victim must show that a defendant acted intentionally or recklessly in an extreme and outrageous manner that caused the victim severe emotional distress.
- Harassment — A victim must prove the defendant pursued a course of unwanted, unwelcome and uninvited conduct that annoyed, demeaned, threatened, offended, intimidated, alarmed, or put the victim in fear of physical safety.
- Public disclosure of private fact — The defendant made a public revelation, which would be offensive to a person of reasonable sensibilities, of a fact or facts that were held private, were not generally known, and were not newsworthy.
- Copyright violation — In many instances of what is termed “revenge porn,” a former intimate of the victim may post nude and/or sexually explicit photos or videos on a website. If the victim had created these images, for example, by “sexting” a photo via cellphone, a recipient who publishes the image without permission has violated the copyright of the creator.
In all of these cases, a plaintiff who proves the elements of the case is entitled to injunctive relief and damages. The plaintiff’s proof must be by the “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the offense. This is a much lighter burden than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard in criminal cases. Injunctive relief is a court order for the defendant to cease the offending behavior and/or issue a retraction to a statement. Damages are monetary compensation for the harm the defendant’s behavior caused the plaintiff. These can be actual damages, as in medical bills covering treatment for anxiety, lost pay due to medical disability caused by the harassment, or lost earnings due to loss of reputation. Courts may also award exemplary (punitive) damages in cases where a defendant’s conduct is particularly outrageous.
You can rely on our attorneys’ experience to advise you on the best strategy for prosecuting your case and getting the relief you need.
Contact our Maryland attorneys for your internet harassment case
Smouse & Mason, LLC has the experience and resources to hold cyberstalkers accountable for harassing behavior. Contact our Annapolis law office online or at 410-269-6620 for reliable advice and determined representation.