Can a Dating Site Be Sued If Your Date Turns Dangerous?
Does a Dating App Have a Special Relationship With the App User?When Match.com matched Kay Beckman with Wade Riley on Match.com, Wade viciously stabbed and beat Beckman. Beckman brought a lawsuit against Match.com. Beckman argued that Match had a duty to warn her that her date was dangerous, but the courts disagreed. With no special relationship established between Match.com and Beckman, Match didn't even have a duty to warn, let alone any sort of duty to protect. The ruling of the Ninth Circuit determined that no special relationship exists between a dating app user and the app itself.
Actual Knowledge Can Be Hard To Come ByIf, however, a dating app has actual knowledge that someone using their site has been found guilty of committing violent acts so similar that they would rise to the level of foreseeable harm, then it is possible there could be a duty to warn. Unfortunately, dating apps will not go out of their way to find this knowledge. For instance, in the Beckman case, Ridley had a history of criminal violence, including domestic violence and battery, about ten years before this attack. However, Match was unaware of this criminal record and, therefore, did not have actual knowledge of foreseeable harm.
How Safe Is Online Dating?In a 2023 Pew Research poll about trends in internet dating, they found that for women under 50:
- 56% received an unwelcome sexually explicit message or image
- 43% continued to receive messages after they expressed they were not interested
- 37% were called an offensive name
- 11% received threats of harm
How Can You Protect Yourself When Online Dating?Since dating sites do not screen their users for criminal backgrounds (because they don't have an obligation to), there are steps you can take before your first date:
- Avoid scams. Do not give personal information such as phone number, birthdate, social security number, or credit card or banking information.
- Avoid 'catfishing' where scammers create fake profiles on social media to cause you harm.
- Arrange for your own transportation. Do not let your date pick you up or drop you off.
- Meet in public places. Do not go to remote locations.
- Let your friends and family know where you are and when you expect to return.
- Use your phone locator apps where your friends and family can track your location.
- Look for red flags and listen to your gut.
- Check the government's Public Sex Offender Registry to search registered sex offenders in your area.
What To Do if You Are Assaulted?In the unfortunate case you are a victim of assault, sexual or otherwise, do the following things:
- Make sure you are in a safe place and call 911.
- Get immediate medical attention for physical injuries.
- Keep clothing and any DNA evidence (such as skin underneath fingernails) for the police.
- Make a police report detailing the assault.
- Seek counseling and resources for emotional support.
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Online Dating Sites Vow to Protect Users from Sex Predators (FindLaw Technologist)
- Aggravated Assault (FindLaw Learn About the Law)
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