A woman who frequented a chat room devoted to the HBO show Deadwood claimed she found herself caught up in her own fictional western drama when another female fan drew her into a long distance relationship while posing as a man named Jesse James and a cast of several other fake acquaintances of Jesse who corroborated “his” story. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, recently held that the woman could not recover damages suffered from the alleged “fraud”.
The ordeal allegedly led to significant distress, particularly when a “friend” of Jesse told the woman, Paula Bonhomme, that Jesse had attempted suicide and then that Jesse had died of cancer, halting her plans to move in with Jesse in his supposed Colorado home. After that, Bonhomme visited Jesse’s friend (actually Jesse under her real name, Janna) in Colorado to see Jesse’s favorite sites, followed by a return visit to Bonhomme’s home.
Expenses allegedly incurred by Bonhomme include thousands of dollars in therapist bills, gifts for Jesse and friends, and expenses related to making her home handicap-accessible for Janna’s visit. The relationship and particularly Jesse’s tragic death – complete with a final love letter to Bonhomme – also led to Bonhomme’s severe depression.
As we previously discussed, the Illinois appellate court upheld Bonhomme’s claim against “Calamity” Janna for fraudulent misrepresentation. The appellate judges debated whether reliance on a chat room user’s representations regarding her identity can be justifiable (justifiable reliance is a key element of the tort) with the majority holding that Bonhomme was entitled to rely on Jesse’s elaborate story.
The reprieve was short lived, however, because the Supreme Court sent the case on to the last roundup. Continue reading