Just one day after a contentious Senate hearing where lawmakers blamed social media executives for the negative effect their platforms have on teenagers’ mental health — News4JAX has information about a lawsuit filed by a Clay County family against the LGBTQ social networking and dating site Grindr.
The parents of an underage Clay County teen blame the platform for their son’s death. So, could this federal case set a precedent for other families blaming social media?
If this case goes to trial, a former prosecutor says the answer is yes, this case could encourage other families to also file lawsuits against social media giants for their child’s mental health decline or death.
According to the Clay County lawsuit, the teen’s access, downloads, use, purchase, and subscription to Grindr Services resulted in severe emotional distress and bodily injuries, culminating in his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
READ: Grindr federal lawsuit
″The real question is, you know, did the social media platform Grindr know that they were dealing with a minor,” former federal prosecutor, Curtis Fallgatter asked.
Fallgatter says the family of the plaintiff filed the case in federal court, because they are relying on a federal statute called the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which protects sex trafficking victims.
The plaintiff claims Grindr made no reasonable attempt to verify whether the teen, referred to as A.V. in court documents, was 18-years-old. And it failed to implement adequate safeguards to prevent the minor from accessing Grindr, because such actions are not in the defendant’s financial interest.
The lawsuit is alleging that Grindr intentionally allowed underage users to access, download, and subscribe to Grindr services, and in turn served them up on a silver platter to adult users, intentionally seeking to sexually groom them or engage in sexual activity.
The plaintiffs never state the deceased age at his time of death.
“It seems to me they seem to be a little light on some of the connections to how the social media platform would have known it was a minor. That’s something I would think the federal judge would want to have some proof of, you know, for there to be a nexus to establish that this that their property and from trafficking with minors,” Fallgatter said.
A senate hearing Wednesday in Washington D.C. grilled social media CEOs about their apps alleged negative impact on underage age teens health. ″Your product is killing people, will you personally commit to compensating the victims, you’re a billionaire,” Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Grindr has requested the judge dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in 2022. ”If there’s some change in legislation, you know, it wouldn’t be made retroactive. So the liability or not of Grindr back, you know, 2020, at the time of the death, would be determined by whatever standards, legal or otherwise existed at the time,” Fallgatter said.
The lawyers who filed the lawsuit haven’t replied to our requests for comment and neither has Grindr which is based in West Hollywood California. A judge is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether this case will go to trial or be dismissed.