TikTok Lawsuit

The attorneys at the Social Media Victims Law Center are actively involved in lawsuits against the social media platform TikTok. TikTok has marketed a defective product to young people and neglected to warn them or their parents about its potential for harm.

According to the most recent Statista data to come out in October of 2021, TikTok is in second place behind Snapchat as the most important social media network for teens and tweens, with 30 percent of users favoring TikTok as their social media network of choice. This is not surprising because TikTok markets heavily to these age groups. However, TikTok has made no effort to ensure that the platform is safe for children and teens. The results have proven to be tragic.

The Social Media Victims Law Center can help families file a TikTok lawsuit claim.

TikTok Named in the Wrongful Death of Two Young Girls

The Social Media Victims Law Group has filed a lawsuit, Case Number 22STCV21355 Smith et al v. TikTok Inc., on behalf of the parents of two young girls who tragically died after attempting to complete the dangerous “blackout challenge” to which they were exposed through their respective TikTok video feeds. The blackout challenge involves using objects to strangle oneself to the point of losing consciousness.

Lalani Erika Renee Walton

Lalani Erika Renee Walton

Lalani received her first cell phone at the age of eight. Her stepmother installed TikTok on her phone along with parental controls. Within a short period, Lalani had become addicted to watching and creating videos of herself singing and dancing.

Despite close parental monitoring, TikTok’s algorithm served Lalani a video depicting the blackout challenge. On July 15, 2021, Lalani was found hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck after attempting the blackout challenge.

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo

Arriani received her first phone when she was seven and downloaded TikTok shortly thereafter. She became obsessed with uploading dance videos and watching the feed. By the time she was nine years old, she was addicted to the platform. Eventually, TikTok provided her with a blackout challenge video. 

On February 26, 2021, Arriani and her younger brother were playing in Arriani’s bedroom, when the five-year-old boy ran downstairs to tell his father Arriani was no longer moving. Her father immediately rushed upstairs to find her hanging from the family’s dog leash, which she had attached to her bedroom door.

How is TikTok responsible?

Under product liability law, the manufacturer of a product is liable when harm comes to its users due to any of the following:

  1. The product design is defective.
  2. A manufacturing defect occurs.
  3. The company fails to provide instructions and warnings.

Under the doctrine of strict liability, product manufacturers are liable for harm regardless of the manufacturer’s intentions.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media platforms cannot be held liable for the content others have posted on their platforms. However, this case against TikTok is not based on the actions of its users but rather on TikTok’s actions.

“Our idea of product liability is that until it’s cheaper for companies to make safe products than make dangerous products, they’re going to keep making dangerous products. And the fact that we have an entire generation of young people throughout the world who are having severe mental health challenges doesn’t seem to sway them. ”

Matthew P. Bergman,
Founder of Social Media Victims Law Center

Defective Design

The design of TikTok’s platform is inherently flawed, which is evident in its methods of accepting users onto its platform, selecting which content to present to users, and using an addictive algorithm to maximize user screen time. The lawsuit specifically details the following with regard to TikTok’s design defects:

  • Inadequate safeguards from harmful and exploitative content
  • Failure to verify the ages and identities of minor users; the sophisticated algorithm and targeted ads indicate that TikTok can easily detect the approximate ages of its users
  • Inadequate parental control and monitoring
  • The intentional direction of minors to harmful content
  • Design of an addictive product
  • Lack of safeguards whereby parents could be notified of problematic usage of the product

It should be noted that allowing children under the age of 13 on a social media platform violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Failure to Warn

The lawsuit demonstrates that TikTok’s failure to warn parents and users of the foreseeable risks associated with the product makes TikTok dangerous to young users. No reasonable person would presume a consumer product that markets itself to children poses these dangers, which include the effects of an addictive algorithm and excessive screen time.

These include:

  • Loss of interest in academics and extracurricular activities
  • Susceptibility to dangerous suggestions, such as the blackout challenge
  • Disruption to healthy sleep patterns

TikTok has deprived parents of a means to receive notifications when their children overuse the social media platform or view inappropriate content. Parents cannot always monitor these activities due to the resourcefulness of teens in accessing social media from multiple devices, but Tiktok could easily devise a method to keep parents informed.

Negligence

In marketing a product to minors, TikTok owes a heightened duty of care to minors who use their platform — similar to the duties of a manufacturer of physical products to ensure the safety of those to whom it markets.

TikTok breached that duty of care, and this breach has resulted in the deaths of several children.

Candlelight Memorial

An Increasing Number of Deaths Precipitated by TikTok

Lalani and Arriani are two of several children under the age of 13 who perished while attempting the blackout challenge after seeing it on TikTok, in many cases after TikTok recommended the video on their “For You” pages.

More Victims of TikTok’s Blackout Challenge 

  • 10-year-old Robert Craig was found hanging from a tree by his 12-year-old sister in September 2021.
  • 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus died 19 days after attempting to strangle himself with a shoelace and being discovered unconscious by his twin brother in March 2021.
  • 10-year-old Nyla Anderson died in Pennsylvania in December 2021 after attempting the blackout challenge with a purse strap.

Additional Dangers of the TikTok Platform

The blackout challenge is one of many dangers on TikTok. 

Challenges

The following challenges are also popular on the platform, and some prove to have deadly consequences:

  • Fire mirror challenge: spraying shapes on a mirror with flammable fluids and lighting them on fire
  • Penny challenge: sliding a penny behind a partially plugged-in phone charger
  • Benadryl challenge: consuming a dangerous amount of Benadryl to achieve hallucinogenic effects
  • Salt and ice challenge: creating chemical burns by pouring salt on the skin and holding an ice cube to it for as long as possible
  • Hot water challenge: pouring boiling water on another person
  • Fire challenge: dousing oneself in flammable liquids and lighting oneself on fire

General Dangers

In addition to challenges, using TikTok can precipitate psychological harm, social media addiction, hospitalization, or even death from the following:

Contact with sexual predators

Types of Cases the Social Media Victims Law Center Accepts

Our attorneys are experienced and passionate about holding social media platforms accountable. We will fight vigorously to help your family win a generous TikTok settlement or, if necessary, litigate in court. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

For individuals and children who have been

We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.

Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.

We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.

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