Employer of Porn-Trawling Worker Wins Appeal

Apr 8, 2015 10:19 AM PST

BEAUMONT, Texas — An employer fighting a lawsuit against a worker who allegedly posted online sex ads using a woman's name to embarrass her can claim immunity from civil damages, a Texas state appeals court ruled.

Appellant Chris Davis claimed that she was the victim of an "obscene cyber-strike campaign” by Chris Fournet who allegedly posted ads on Craigslist and posed as Davis as if she was soliciting for sexual encounters with strangers. All of this was done, she claimed, while Fournet was at work.

Davis sued Motiva Enterprises LLC, Fournet’s employer, for negligent supervision, negligent entrustment and negligent undertaking.

She alleged that Fournet had previously used Motiva’s company computers for several years to access Craiglist for “soliciting sexual encounters” and “other pornographic, swinger life, or ‘adult friend finder’ ” websites during work hours and while under Motiva’s supervision.

Accusing Motiva of negligent supervision, Davis claimed that Motiva even knew that Fournet was "leaving and returning to the jobsite in order to conduct those sexual encounters."

“Motiva employees, including those in management, would by their proximity and interaction with Fournet have known or suspected his consistent interactions with pornographic and adult websites during working hours,” Davis claimed in the suit against Motiva.

A lower court dismissed the claims against Motiva after finding that Fournet was a servicer provider of the information content at issue and immune from Section 230(c)(1) of the CDA, which provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an interactive computer service who publish information provided by others.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th District Texas Court of Appeals affirmed that lower court’s ruling, deciding that “Davis’ allegations are nothing more than conclusory statements that cannot support a reasonable inference that Motiva is liable as alleged.”

“The petition does not contain facts alleging how Motiva received notice of Fournet’s conduct against Davis,” the appeals panel said.

Fournet, who faced invasion of privacy claims, was not part of the appeal.

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