MySpace republication at issue in appeal
April 3, 2009
• Was it outrageous conduct?
• ‘Ode to Coalinga’ has its critics
Be careful what you write about Coalinga. Some in the Central Valley city have tender feelings.
The California Fifth District Court of Appeal has returned to Superior Court a case involving the printing in a newspaper of “An Ode to Coalinga,” which was originally just a posting on a former Coalinga resident’s MySpace page.
But Cynthia Moreno’s ode was hardly complimentary and when it was reprinted in the weekly paper, the Coalinga Record, local literary critics were dismayed.
Ms. Moreno’s family received death threats “and a shot was fired at the family home, forcing the family to move out of Coalinga,” says the appellate court.
The author’s father had to close the 20-year-old family business due to severe losses, the court notes.
Ms. Moreno sued the newspaper and its parent company, Lee Enterprises Inc., publisher of the daily Hanford Sentinel, contending printing the ode, which was submitted by the principal of Coalinga High School as a letter to the editor, invaded her privacy and caused emotional distress.
The appellate court affirmed and reversed the Superior Court’s actions.
“The facts contained in the article were not private. Rather, once posted on myspace.com, this article was available to anyone with internet access,” the court says in agreeing with the lower court that there was no invasion of privacy.
But, says the appeals court, the trial court erred in also dismissing the other complaints.
“The trial court should have overruled the demurrer to the intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action. Under the circumstances here, a jury should determine whether the alleged conduct was outrageous,” it says.
Comments on this story
Mon 4/4/09 12:33 AM
The behavior and conduct the high school principal was not appropriate in this case. This is indeed is a conflict of interest and quite unprofessional espeially if this principal currently has one of the Moreno's as a student at the high school. He sure is putting this family in danger. The responsibilities of a Principal is to enusre that each student is safe on and off campus. He has a duty as an educator to behavor appropriately and he certainly did not demonstrate that in this case. Shame on him! The Moreno family deserves an apology from this Mr. Campbell.
jaylw 4/4/09 10:26 PM
one question, why is mr. campbell still the principal at Coalinga high school?
anon 7/25/10 11:23 PM
Okay, I've read about this case on at least 7 seven different websites, and none of them specifically say her profile was set to private. I mean, it can easily be inferred, but it doesn't say anywhere. Will someone please let me know if they find it anywhere? It's important to me for some kind of personal reasons...
Editor's note: You can download the court's decision from the link on this story.
Mark 9/25/10 10:51 AM
I'm afraid I have to disagree with you, Mon. If there was some measure of danger that the family was placed in as a result, Miss Moreno is more to blame than Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell has a regular practice of keeping up with former students to see how they are progressing and taking an interest in how their education at CHS has developed them. Often when he hears of/receives publications that such students have made, he will pass them on to publication for the Record. Miss Moreno became disgruntled with her home town, former school, and former classmates and made a sweeping generalization that, essentially, anyone who was a Coalinga resident was unworthy of her regard. While she may have stated this in a moment of emotionalism and a need to express her personal opinion in writing, the fact is that if you publicize your personal opinion, you make it subject to distribution, particularly amongst those to whom the opinion is directed. In this case, Coalinga especially is a very small town(I should know; I grew up there myself) and it's no surprise that word got around as quickly as it did. Miss Moreno's situation of having to deal with threats and angry correspondence is upsetting, this is true, but she has no one to blame but herself. It would have been a simple matter to keep her publication private on her MySpace...or even better, not to have written it on the Internet in the first place. Mr. Campbell certainly owes no apology for the results of his trying to circulate openly public information.
I, for one, am very pleased with the ending results of this case, even though I feel it preposterous that the jury declared Mr. Campbell's actions "outrageous."