Right Result – Sort Of
A California jury handed a former Coalinga High School student a damage award of $0 in her suit against former principal Roger Campbell. Cynthia Moreno had sued the principal for providing a local newspaper with a copy of Moreno’s rant about the city of Coalinga. The principal got a copy from Moreno’s MySpace page, where Moreno had published it. Moreno claimed she’d suffered emotional distress as a result of the principal’s “outrageous” act of providing a copy of the essay to the newspaper. It does not appear that Moreno alleged that Campbell hacked into her account, or otherwise obtained a copy of the essay by any improper means. The case revolved solely around the publication of the article in the newspaper and the angry reaction by Coalinga residents. By a 9-3 vote, the jury found that the publication of the essay was not “a substantial factor in causing damage” to Moreno. Which I suspect means that since Moreno herself had posted the essay on the World Wide Web, she couldn’t very well claim that she was any more damaged by publishing the same piece in a local newspaper. That makes perfect sense to me. What I don’t get though, is the fact that before they got to the damage question, the jury decided by a vote of 8-2 that Campbell’s act of providing the MySpace essay to the local newspaper was “outrageous.” In other words, sharing information with a local community newspaper gives rise to civil liability even though the plaintiff had already posted the same information online. Huh? That’s odd even by California standards. But I guess 8 jurors couldn’t pass up the chance to stick it to a high school principal.