NORTH NAPLES, Fla. - You've heard of sexual harrassment, but what about "textual" harrassment? It exists and it happened to one North Naples couple who's on a mission to make it stop.
All it took was a single text to turn Richard and Lori Ann Crawford's lives upside down. According to court documents, on or about January 11, 2011, Lori Ann's birthday, she got a text message accusing her husband Richard of having an affair with one of his employees.
The problem is, they don't know who sent it. So they've hired attorney William Hazzard to track down who did.
According to the lawsuit, the Crawfords are suing John/Jane Doe for damages exceeding $15,000 for emotional distress and defamation.
The document reads,"Doe deliberately and recklessly inflicted mental suffering on the Crawfords by sending the accusatory text message to L. Crawford on her birthday and specifically while L. Crawford was celebrating her birthday with her husband and other family members. Doe's conduct in sending the text message to L. Crawford on her birthday, accusing her husband of having an affair, is conduct so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, that it is considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."
From here, the Crawford's attorney can serve a subpoena to Lori Crawford's cell phone provider to find out the number that the message came from.
Hazzard did not return our call for comment on the case.
These cases are popping up all across the country.
"Textual harassment" is just a new twist on a bad thing. Labor and Employment Lawyer Steven Palazzolo out of Grand Rapids, Michigan tells WINK News, while the law hasn't quite caught up with advancing technology, don't bank on anonymity.
"I don't think anyone is really anonymous anymore," Palazzolo said. "It's a lot harder to be anonymous. But that doesn't mean people won't try."
Palazzolo says while it's not easy, if you have enough time and are willing to spend the money, you can probably figure out who's sending it. Even those disposable cell phones can sometimes be traced back to receipts and serial numbers.
"I love it when people use these things to harass people because you always have evidence," Palazzolo said. "it's not necessarily he-said she-said anymore. You've got a piece of paper you can trace back to somebody who sent a message."
Florida is among 37 states that have cyberharassment laws specifically dealing with texting and e-mailing. You can read more about these laws at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=13495