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George Zimmerman's parents are suing comedian Roseanne Barr over a not-so-funny tweet that publicized their home address after their son shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Although Barr later deleted the tweet, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman allege that she sought to "cause a lynch mob to descend" on their Florida home when she publicly posted their address, according to documents obtained by The Smoking Gun.
The Zimmermans are suing Barr for emotional distress and invasion of privacy, and want at least $15,000 in damages. What will they have to prove in order to prevail?
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress usually involves some kind of outrageous conduct that causes the victim to suffer emotional trauma. Extreme or outrageous conduct goes beyond being merely offensive -- it usually must exceed all possible bounds of decency. So ordinary insults probably won't rise to the level of emotional distress.
According to The Smoking Gun, the Zimmermans claim in their lawsuit that Barr acted extremely and outrageously when she tweeted the couple's home address and followed it by saying, "At first, I thought it was good to let ppl (sic) know that no one can hide anymore." Barr then tweeted, "If Zimmerman isn't arrested I'll rt his address again - maybe go 2 (sic) his house myself."
George Zimmerman's parents further allege that Barr's tweets to her 110,000 followers caused members of the news media to arrive at their home and required the couple to flee. Apparently, they haven't been able to return to their home since their address was posted on Twitter in 2012, even though the tweet has since been deleted.
Invasion of Privacy
The Zimmermans also claim that by leaking their home address on Twitter, Barr invaded their privacy. While there are several ways one can cause an invasion of privacy, it seems like George Zimmerman's parents are claiming that Barr publicly disclosed a private fact -- i.e., their address.
According to the complaint, the Zimmermans didn't give Barr permission to publicly reveal their home address. Further, since George Zimmerman hasn't lived there for six years, there was no connection or public interest between his parents and Trayvon Martin's death.
However, home addresses in Florida are usually considered public records, unless the address belongs to a government official with some limitations. So while it probably wasn't the best idea for Barr to tweet the Zimmermans' address, revealing their address may not be considered an invasion of privacy if it was already a public record.
The Zimmermans filed their lawsuit against Roseanne Barr in state court in Seminole County, Florida. Barr has not yet publicly commented on the lawsuit.