An aspiring model who said she was drugged and raped on video by two men who lured her to a fake audition after she posted information about herself on a networking website can sue the El Segundo-based owner of the site, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, reversing a lower court ruling, determined that the federal Communications Decency Act does not shield ModelMayhem.com from liability in the sexual abuse negligence case brought by “Jane Doe” against site owner Internet Brands two years ago in Los Angeles.
A spokesman for Internet Brands did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The plaintiff alleged she was attacked by two men, Emerson Callum and Lavont Flanders, who lured her to Florida with the false promise that she had an opportunity to audition for modeling jobs.
The lawsuit contends that the owners of ModelMayhem.com knew the two men had been using the site to drug, rape and videotape women for years and did not stop them or warn users.
Flanders and Callum were both sentenced in Miami in 2012 to 12 consecutive terms of life in federal prison on sex trafficking charges.
“This is a landmark decision and a victory for victims of sexual abuse,” said Jeff Herman, the plaintiff’s attorney. “For the first time ever, websites may be held liable for their failure to protect users from a known danger. I look forward to taking this case to trial.”
The case was remanded to U.S. District Judge John F. Walter for further proceedings.
— City News Service