In a decision handed down on Dec. 30, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all fourteen claims against SexSearch.com for allowing a minor to use its site. Doe v. SexSearch.com, et al., No. 07-4182.
In a case of first impression in the Sixth Circuit, a user of SexSearch.com, who was arrested after using the site to find and have sex with a 14 year old girl, sued the website for breach of contract and other claims for failing to prevent the girl from using the site after misrepresenting her age as 18.
The user sought to hold the owners of site liable for failing to enforce its Terms and Conditions to preclude the use of the site by minors, and for falsely representating that all users of the site were over 18. But the Terms and Conditions of the site also disclaimed responsibility for verifying the accuracy of the information provided by others users. Based on that disclaimer, the court agreed that the website owners could not be liable for having promised to ban minors who misrepresented their age, nor could users have justifiable relied on the website representation that all users were over 18 years old, when users knew that no verification took place, and could see the registration process for themselves.
The court also affirmed the dismissal of 12 other claims brought against the website including negligent misrepresentation, failure to warn, breach of warranty, and deceptive and unfair trade practices.
Of note, the court did not affirm the district court's alternate grounds of dismissal - that all of the plaintiff's claims were also barred by Section 230 of the communications decency act. Instead, the appellate court disparaged the district court's ruling on Section 230, claiming that the district court "read Section 230 more broadly than any previous Court of Appeals decision has read it, potentially abrogating all state- or common-law causes of action brought against interactive Internet services."