Waukegan radio station WXLC is being sued after having women compete to go on a date with a “great guy” Travis Harvey, 46. The radio station did not mention that Harvey had been convicted of violating an order for protection. He has now pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the “winner” in the contest, a 24-year-old who went on the date in February 2007.
The rape victim is charging that the Delaware-based NextMedia, the parent company of WXLC, should have done a background check on the man they were promoting as a “great guy. Had they done so, they would have learned that Harvey was convicted in March 2006 of misdemeanor and felony charges for violating a domestic battery order of protection.
The liability for such contests has been well-established. In Weirum v. RKO, the court held that the Real Don Steele and RKO Corp. were liable for a contest where teenagers would speed to find the Real Don at various locations. When a third party was injured by speeding teens, the court allowed recovery.
This case should be easier on a legal level. This is a straight negligence claim — not a vicarious liability claim as in Weirum. The promotion of a man “as a great guy” adds to the liability base. The fact that he is a felon might not be negligent in itself if the crime was for taxes or some other non-violent offense. However, the fact that it was a protection order is obviously relevant and should have disqualified him from the promotion. It will be interesting to see if the radio program even inquired as to the person’s history. This should be an interesting case to watch develop.
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