Social Media Lawsuit | School District Litigation
Social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube have wormed their way into our families and communities to the detriment of us all. National surveys show high percentages of high school and middle school students regularly access social media. Young people routinely use it, and are used by it, in our homes and schools. Many have developed severe addictions to these products as a direct result of the very sophisticated marketing practices that have targeted them.
Matthews & Associates seeks to hold social media companies accountable for the harms they have visited on vulnerable users. We will work to apply principles of product liability to force social media companies to make consumer safety a priority. These companies must be made to design platforms that protect users from foreseeable harm, platforms that don’t prioritize profits over the mental health of the vulnerable users they currently target and exploit.
About This Case – from the California MDL Court
An MDL court has been established in California to handle several of these cases. That court has noted:
“This is a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) involving various defendants such as Meta Platforms, Inc., Instagram LLC, Snap, Inc., TikTok, Inc., ByteDance, Inc., YouTube LLC, Google LLC, and Alphabet Inc. Plaintiffs have alleged that the defendants’ social media platforms are defective because they are designed to maximize screen time, which can encourage addictive behavior in adolescents. As alleged, this conduct results in various emotional and physical harms, including death."
We may file or settle a claim individually or as part of a group on a case-by-case basis.
Whether your claim is filed individually or as part of a group fighting the same defendant, our goal is always to provide each of our clients with individual attention.
School Districts Need Professional Legal Help
Due to the conduct of these social media companies, a new generation of children is suffering from addiction and other related mental health issues. Problems triggered by social media companies have uniquely impacted schools, forcing them to incur a multitude of costs to address this problem. With schools now facing the challenge to fix the problems caused by sophisticated social media companies, Matthews & Associates is working to represent school districts and public entities to help them combat the mental health crisis among our youth, a crisis caused by social media companies.
Our firm is committed to protecting public health. We have built a national reputation on our ability to litigate complex disputes against some of the world’s largest companies. We represented claimants in the national litigation against JUUL, the e-cigarette maker responsible for creating a youth vaping epidemic on school campuses.
As in the JUUL litigation, we believe that social media companies should be held accountable for the mental health crisis they have triggered and exploited in our nation’s youth.
We welcome the chance to discuss the important litigation issues with any organization and its members. We hope all school districts will consider joining this effort on behalf of public education and our children’s welfare.
Some Effects/Problems of Social Media
- Social Media Addiction
- Online grooming
- Eating disorders
- Fentanyl-laced pills (via Snapchat)
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Our investigations have found that social media companies engage in deceptive practices by designing and promoting their products to attract and addict children. Everything about these products has been designed to addict teen and adolescent users. Here are a few of the problems these platforms deliver as services and then exploit:
- inadequate age verification measures
- insufficient parental controls
- endless scrolling
- constant notifications
- targeted algorithms
It is difficult to overestimate the power of these platforms and the cost to society, family, schools, and the individuals who use them at a feverish pace. In the United States, 85 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds use YouTube monthly, 72% use Instagram, 69% use Snapchat, 69% use TikTok, 51% use Facebook.
How will filing a lawsuit against social media companies benefit my school district?
Filing a lawsuit against social media companies gives a school district the chance to recover financial costs for expenses incurred because of the youth mental health crisis engendered by those companies. Some schools have spent thousands of dollars, hundreds or thousands of hours, and other vital resources to implement or adjust their methods of policing, disciplining, and helping social-media-addicted students. Many young people constantly access social media products on school property. Even if a school district has not spent substantial funds to deal with this problem, investigating claims and potentially filing a lawsuit can help a school obtain future damages to fund the steps needed to deal with the mental health crisis caused by social media companies.
School district participation in this litigation is crucial. Social media companies have targeted our children with addictive and harmful products that offer no warnings or instructions for safe use. Because school districts have been strongly impacted and are in a unique position to take a stand against this conduct, joining this litigation can play a pivotal role in holding social media companies accountable. School districts can help send the message to these companies that it’s wrong, even evil, to profit from harming a child.
Social media companies should pay and provide schools with resources to fight this mental health crisis.
What are the financial costs/risks for school districts participating in this litigation?
Matthews & Associates works on a contingency fee basis. That means a school district does not pay any legal fees or expenses unless, and until, we recover compensation on behalf of that school district. Our firm will pay all expenses associated with pursuing a claim. If we recover compensation on behalf of the school district, we will be reimbursed for expenses out of the amount of the recovery. If the case is unsuccessful – if the school district does not recover compensation for its claim – the school district will not owe us anything for legal fees or expenses.
What legal claims do school districts have against social media companies?
School district cases against social media companies are based on a cause of action known as public nuisance. These claims allow both government and private entities to hold companies liable for damages incurred because of the companies’ conduct. This cause of action has been successfully used by government and private entities to redress similar public health epidemics, including the JUUL e-cigarette epidemic, the opioid crisis, and the first round of tobacco litigation in the 1990s.
Social media companies have caused a youth mental health crisis that has significantly affected schools. The public nuisance liability theory allows school districts to hold social media companies accountable for their conduct and the damage caused.
Where will the litigation take place and how will it proceed?
Hundreds of personal injury lawsuits have been filed in federal courts against social media companies by individuals and school districts.
Because several of the social media companies are headquartered in California, there is also an active California consolidated state court litigation called the “JCCP”, which contains more lawsuits naming these companies as defendants. The federal court system has consolidated the cases in a Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”) in front of Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California (Oakland Division). The judge will manage discovery, pre-trial briefing, and other issues common to all cases. She may also try several test (or “bellwether”) cases in the MDL. Once the MDL work is complete, each case will be sent back to a federal district court in the school district’s state for individual trials, unless there is pre-trial settlement.
How much of the school district’s time and resources will be required?
It’s difficult to guess, but we anticipate minimal inconvenience and interruption. We understand school administrators are very busy; so we promise to do all we can to make the process as efficient as possible. Because a district’s case will likely be consolidated in the MDL for pre-trial coordination, most of our litigation efforts will focus on issues common to all the litigants. The MDL will need to produce some case-specific discovery, but that is likely to be primarily in the form of written discovery and document production. Within 2-3 months of filing a case, a school district would need to complete a written “Plaintiff Fact Sheet” and provide basic supporting documentation to gather baseline information about the school’s claim. We will work with school district administrators to obtain the necessary information and documents as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
If a school district’s case is selected for trial, more in-depth discovery would occur, likely in depositions of key administrators. Given the expected large number of cases filed in MDL, however, the number of cases selected for more in-depth discovery and trials is likely to be quite small.