Family feuds have been a common form of entertainment on television. Many of us have tuned in to watch shows like Family Feud, Modern Family, Growing Pains, etc. In the legal realm, family feuds have comprised of a practice termed family law. Attorneys who practice family law are considered to have a “tough heart” by many because it is not easy watching families endure events such as divorces and custody battles. Speaking of families and lawsuits, a recent lawsuit of a nephew sewing his uncle for harassment over Facebook pictures gives new meaning to the term “family feud.”
A man from Minnesota named Aaron Olson sued his uncle because his uncle had posted childhood pictures of him, in front of a Christmas tree, in a rabbit costume. Rather than untagging himself from the picture, or calling his uncle and politely asking him to remove the picture, Aaron sued his uncle for harassment in a Minnesota district court.
Olson’s claim was based on the fact that the pictures were “innocuous family photographs.” Posting such photographs on Facebook establishes a platform for mean comments to be directed towards Olson. The court dismissed this case, and the Court of Appeals of Minnesota denied Olson’s complaint.
The Judge in the Court of Appeals of Minnesota stated that harassment occurs when words have some sort of adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another person. Therefore, mean or disrespectful comments do not constitute harm to one’s safety, privacy or security. The court ruled that the district court was correct in stating that the evidence submitted by Olson (the Facebook pictures of him in a rabbit costume, in front of a Christmas tree) did not satisfy the requirements to prove harassment.
This lawsuit is probably the most ridiculous one I have heard of to date. The obvious lesson to take away is that if you have a minor issue with a relative, talk to them. The power of effective communication can do wonders, keep people out of court, and put the money spent on potential litigation back into your pocket!
More importantly, when frivolous suits are brought into court, it is a misuse of the judicial system and a waste of judicial resources. People should realize that the judicial system is there to tend to complex matters that cannot be solved in the home or office environment, not minor family feuds over embarrassing photos.
So, a few tips to people out there. Before thinking about going to court, evaluate the basis of your lawsuit. If your lawyer explains things to you, you will be hit with a hefty legal bill. Rather than depending on your lawyer, think about how much merit you have in your claim. Next, think about solutions that do not involve litigation. Often, litigation complicates matters before reaching a resolution. If there is a quicker way to achieve some closure out of court, go for it. Lastly, confide in a close confidant to see if your potential claim passes the “straight face test.” Specifically, after conveying your claim to your confidant, examine their expression. If it is not of a straight face, and rather is one of disgust, surprise, or awkwardness, it is likely that your lawsuit is frivolous. Avoid filing it and resolve matters in the comfort of your own home!