“Lawsuits’ Lurid Details Draw an Online Crowd”

And as a timely follow-up to the erotic novelist/lawyer story, here’s an article from the New York Times about how litigation documents have become reading material for avid folk who find them on line in court websites. (And have a lot of time on their hands, apparently.) (Not that I’m including myself in this crowd.) (Although I have suggested, as a pre-lawsuit research project, that prospective plaintiffs do some on-line investigation of their prospective defendants.)

It begins:


Rachel Kremer, a former Zillow saleswoman who sued the real estate company, was not certain “people would care so much.” Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

Intimate, often painful allegations in lawsuits — intended for the scrutiny of judges and juries — are increasingly drawing in mass online audiences far from the courthouses where they are filed.

When a former saleswoman at Zillow sued the real estate website in December, describing X-rated messages from male colleagues, her court filing drew hundreds of thousands of readers, causing an instant public relations crisis for the company.

The papers in a sexual harassment suit filed last summer against Tinder, the dating app, circulated in a popular Buzzfeed post. And a lawyer for a fired University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey coach who is planning a lawsuit knows what the initial complaint will need: a clear narrative and damning details.

More and more, the first court filings in gender-related suits, often allegations that inspire indignation, are winning wide readerships online before anyone steps foot in a courtroom.

As a result, plaintiffs are finding themselves with unexpected support — and greater-than-ever power to ruin reputations. Panicky defendants are left trying to clear their names from accusations that sometimes are unsubstantiated. Judges and law professors, watching the explosion of documents online, fear such broad exposure is throwing court proceedings off track and changing the nature of how civil suits are meant to unfold.

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