Suit Claims Investigator Hired by Law Firm Used Ruse to Friend 12-Year-Old Dog-Bite Plaintiff

By Debra Cassens Weiss
American Bar Association
May 4, 2012

Corrected: A lawsuit filed this week claims that an Ohio insurance defense lawyer hired an investigator to access the private Facebook page of a 12-year-old girl, a plaintiff in a dog-bite lawsuit.

The suit (PDF) was filed by the girl's father, Nelson Cope of Painesville, Courthouse News Service reports. It alleges that, as a result of the investigator's efforts, the Cleveland-area law firm Kerns & Proe obtained at least 221 pictures and 1,000 messages posted by the girl and her Facebook friends. Citing information and belief, the suit says State Auto Insurance, which represented the defendant in the dog-bite litigation, authorized or ratified the Facebook spying.

The investigator was able to access the girl’s Facebook page by posing as one of her friends, according to the suit. The complaint claims violations of the Stored Communications Act, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A lawyer from Kerns & Proe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Corrected on May 7 to state that the lawsuit named State Auto as a defendant.

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