It was recently revealed that director Spike Lee was being sued by an elderly couple in Florida, whose address he incorrectly tweeted as the home of George Zimmerman.
The director was sued by Elaine McClain and David McClain for negligence, meaning he failed to exercise reasonable care in the foreseeable harm he caused the couple. On Tuesday, though, Lee’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss grounded upon what was “foreseeable” by the couple.
Here’s the rub: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lee and the McClains had already signed a settlement agreement with each other in March 2012. In his motion to dismiss, Lee reveals that the couple was paid $10,000 to release claims against him. (Lee says he also removed his “mistaken retweet” and issued a public apology. At the time of the settlement, the couple’s lawyer told the press that the “McClains were very moved by Mr. Lee’s apology.”)
But the couple found new lawyers who have come up with a lawsuit that doesn’t come right out and say it, but seemingly suggests, that Lee be liable for all of his followers who are retweeting his mistake. It might be argued that it is foreseeable that when a celebrity posts some information on a social media page, others will echo.
That argument cuts both ways, however.
“Here, at the time that Plaintiffs entered into the Settlement Agreement, it was well-known that it was possible for information posted on Twitter (by Mr. Lee or anyone else) to be retweeted in the future,” says Lee’s motion to dismiss. “Indeed, the Complaint alleges that it is easy to retweet information by simply clicking a button on Twitter. For these reasons, to the extent that any of the unnamed individuals who posted the McLains’ address on Twitter in 2013 somehow obtained that information from Mr. Lee’s 2012 retweet, such a consequence was eminently foreseeable when the Settlement Agreement was signed.”
Lee is now looking to hold the McClains to the $10,000 they got to release claims. The couple wants $15,000 more.