Kenosha County social media suicide lawsuit, mom fights for late son

A Kenosha county mother is suing social media giants after her son died by suicide. A lawsuit says Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were the catalysts for her son's death.

Christopher Dawley died by suicide in January 2015. A lawyer for the family says if he wasn't on social media, he'd still be alive.

Social media has become a major part of our daily lives. The clicks and likes are second nature. A federal lawsuit claims, at times, they could be deadly.

"Everything seemed fine, and yet suddenly, without any explanation outwardly, he took his life," said Matthew Bergman, lawyer.

Dawley's family thought he was a normal teen, but in January 2015, the 17-year-old Kenosha County boy died by suicide.

"When his family looked at his social media involvement, they saw that he was not only addicted to it but that he was engaging in and being exposed to very dangerous and devastating material," said Bergman.

Now, seven years later, they're taking action, suing Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat in a wrongful death case.

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"We know that these social media platforms are really dangerous," said Bergman.

Bergman is the family's lawyer and founding attorney of the Social Media Victims Law Center.

"Parents are rising up and saying, ‘Enough is enough,'" said Bergman.

"This will inevitably put pressure on the corporations," said Marc Tasman, UW-Milwaukee.

Tasman is a senior lecturer at UWM and director of the digital arts and culture program. He says we could see more lawsuits like this, especially since a whistleblower exposed Facebook in 2021.

"There needs to be external safeguards put into place, and that we can’t leave it to corporations themselves to make these changes," said Tasman.

"We can make these products a lot safer," said Bergman.

Representatives for both Snapchat and Facebook told FOX6 News they couldn't comment on the lawsuit. This is now the third lawsuit the Social Media Victims Law Center has brought and the second involving a minor.

Statement from Snapchat

"While we can't comment on active litigation, our hearts go out to any family who has lost a loved one to suicide. We intentionally built Snapchat differently than traditional social media platforms to be a place for people to connect with their real friends, and offer in-app mental health resources, including on suicide prevention for Snapchatters in need. Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our community and we are constantly exploring additional ways we can support Snapchatters." 

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