Republishing MySpace Post in Local Paper Might Be Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress–Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel

20 04 2009

By Eric Goldman

Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel, Inc., 2009 WL 866795 (Cal. App. Ct. April 2, 2009)

This is one of the most interesting cases I’ve seen in a while. Moreno was a UC Berkeley undergraduate who grew up in Coalinga, a small town in California’s Central Valley whose attractions include a prison, a mental health institution and Harris Ranch, one of the most odoriferous spots on Highway 5. (Coalinga was also the site of a big quake in 1983). After revisiting her hometown, Moreno posted an essay, “An Ode to Coalinga,” on her MySpace page. I have not seen the ode, but it was a 700 word essay that started “the older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga” and then made very negative comments about the town and its residents. Moreno apparently had a change in heart and took the essay down in 6 days. However, while it was posted, the Coalinga high school principal saw the post and submitted it to the Coalinga Record newspaper, which published it as a letter to the editor under Moreno’s full name. The community response to the published essay was severe; according to the court, “Appellants received death threats and a shot was fired at the family home, forcing the family to move out of Coalinga. Due to severe losses, [the dad] closed the 20-year-old family business.”

Moreno and some of her family members sued a variety of defendants for public disclosure of private facts and intentional infliction of emotional distress.


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