Online care giving service Care.com has been sued by a user who used the site to arrange a job with a client who was later revealed as a convicted sex offender. In 2012 Brianna Williams used the Care.com site to find and accept a babysitting job with the Fawley family in Dallas County Texas, later the next year Brian Lee Fawley (the father of the infant child being care for) is alleged to have exposed himself to Williams while the two were along with the child. Williams has brought suit against Care.com and the wife of the accused for negligence, citing that the wife did not disclose that her husband was a convicted sex offender and that the website she relied on did not run a background check.
Care.com has filed a motion to dismiss, which is available here. Their argument focuses on the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which protects against claims over the offline conduct of third parties resulting from digital services provided. Doe v. SexSearch.com, Beckman v. Match.com, Gibson v. Craigslist, and GoDaddy.com, LLC v. Toups are all cited as similar cases where a service provider was protected from liability.
Tech startups should feel confidence that they will be protected against damages from the offline actions of users. However, as the case list above shows, these protection will not stop users from suing when they suffer an injury. These cases are very complex and expensive to litigate, they also require an enormous amount of time to manage. Even if no settlement is made and a verdict is rendered in your favor at trial, it will be expensive. Purchasing Errors and Omissions insurance is one way of covering the legal costs associated with claims from users of your web service. The United States is a litigious country, the costs associated with a lawsuit and the public relations damage from the ensuing proceedings can be catastrophic. Contact an expert tech insurance broker today to discuss better protecting your company, your employees, users and investors.