The family of a teenage girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on MySpace.com asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive their lawsuit against the social networking Web site.
A federal judge dismissed the $30 million suit in February 2007, rejecting the family's claim that MySpace has a legal duty to protect its young users from sexual predators.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, also ruled that interactive computer services like MySpace are immune from such lawsuits under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments on the family's bid to overturn Sparks' rulings. The court didn't indicate when it might rule.
The girl, identified as Julie Doe in court papers, was 13 when she created a MySpace profile in 2005. MySpace requires users to be at least 14, but the girl misrepresented herself as 18 years old.
She was 14 when the 19-year-old male contacted her through MySpace and corresponded for several weeks before he allegedly sexually assaulted her during a meeting in Travis County, Texas, in May 2006.
A lawyer for MySpace and parent company News Corp., Harry Reasoner, told the 5th Circuit panel Monday that Congress enacted the 1996 law to promote the growth of the Internet and protect online companies from tort litigation.
Gregory Coleman, a lawyer for the girl's family, said the law only gives MySpace a "limited shield" from liability. "It has a responsibility to (protect) children," he said.
MySpace denies any wrongdoing, and says it warns members that its safety protections are not foolproof.