6/28/2018Georgia Court Slaps Down Snapchat Speeder Lawsuit
Georgia Court of Appeals cites free speech law in slapping down lawsuit against lawyer who cited police report to condemn Snapchat Speed Filter.
The Snapchat user who allegedly slammed into a motorist at 100 MPH will not be able to sue her victim's lawyer for defamation. The Georgia Court of Appeals last week used an anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (anti-SLAPP) law to toss a lawsuit against attorney Michael Lawson Neff. Neff wrote a blog post criticizing the Snapchat Speed Filter after his client, Wentworth Maynard, suffered brain damage when Christal McGee's 2005 Mercedes C230 slammed into his 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander on September 10, 2015.
"McGee had her phone in her hand, and she started driving fast," Neff wrote on his website. "McGee wanted to post an image of herself going fast. She argued that she was, 'Just trying to get the car to 100 miles per hour to post it on Snapchat.'"
McGee sued Neff, arguing there was no proof that she was driving that fast, and that she was not using Snapchat at the time of the collision. McGee never posted an image of herself speeding, but she did post a selfie after the accident with the caption "Lucky to be alive."
Neff explained that he merely related items mentioned in the police report. McGee pointed to statements filed later by other witnesses that claimed McGee was not traveling quite so fast and was not using Snapchat at the time of the collision. The appellate court found Neff could not be held liable for what he wrote prior to the introduction of conflicting evidence.
"To the extent that the trial court determined that Neff did not act in good faith because of affidavits signed after the article was published, it erred," Judge William M. Ray wrote for the three-judge panel. "Accordingly, we conclude that Neff's statements in his published article and cited in media statements were made in good faith."
Neff said he wanted to raise awareness of the danger of the Snapchat filter by posting an article on his website.
"Each of Neff's challenged statements regarded the use and effect of Snapchat's Speed Filter," Judge Ray noted. "Neff's article focused on the dangers of the Speed Filter, and only mentioned McGee based on her role as the distracted driver in the crash, her alleged use of Snapchat both before and after the accident, and the Maynards' complaint against her. This was sufficiently limited in scope."
The appellate court pointed out that the accident reconstruction report bolstered the witness accounts that said McGee was traveling 100 MPH at the time of the collision. Maynard's lawsuit against Snapchat was given a green light to proceed by the appellate court earlier this month and remains pending (view ruling).
A copy of the defamation ruling is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.