Bungie wins $489K from player for racist harassment of employee

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of Bungie hitting Comer with nearly half a million dollars of damages for harassing their employee.

Bungie

A Washington state judge has issued a $489,000 default judgment against a West Virginia man who sustained an extended and targeted harassment campaign against a Destiny 2 community manager. Beyond the direct victory for Bungie and its employee, though, the case sets a new legal precedent for companies seeking to recover expenses related to similar harassment of their staffers.

The judge’s order, as shared by paralegal Kathryn Tewson (who worked on the case), details what Tewson calls “sociopathic conduct” by one Jesse James Comer, who became “incensed” after an unidentified Bungie community manager promoted fan art by a black artist. Comer then proceeded with a campaign of what the court describes as “carpet bombing” the community manager with texts and “hideous, bigoted voicemails,” including multiple requests “to create options in its game in which only persons of color would be killed.”

The harassment extended to Comer sending “a virtually inedible, odiferous pizza” to the target’s address, a “pizza-shaped threat” that caused the manager and their family to “legitimately fear… for their safety, as someone clearly was targeting them and knew where they lived.”

Making new law

Comer apparently failed to respond to the lawsuit, leading to a relatively open-and-shut default judgment and restraining order for violating Washington’s cyberstalking, telephone harassment, invasion of privacy, and “nuisance” laws. Significantly, though, the judge in the case also found Comer financially liable for interfering with Bungie’s “contractual relations” with its employees, as well as costly violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Comer’s harassment campaign cost Bungie over $380,000 in the form of investigation costs, “executive protection” for the affected community manager, and lost work when the employee “needed to take time off and curtail his public interactions with Destiny 2 fans.” The company was also “forced to shield other existing employees and potential new employees from similar harassment campaigns” and “balance work among its community managers while watching for new vectors of abusive behavior,” according to the ruling.

In finding Comer liable to Bungie for those costs—as well as over $80,000 in legal fees and $25,000 in statutory damages—the court also laid out the basis for “a new common law tort” that paves the way for other companies to do the same. As Tewson describes it in her Twitter thread, “the Court has created a path for those with the resources to identify stochastic terrorists and hold them accountable to do exactly that and recover their costs in court.”

Attorney D.M. Schmeyer, who called the case “some of the best lawyering I’ve ever done” in a tweet thread, added “a hearty fuck you to the dregs of digital society who do real harm and believe themselves above responsibility, beyond accountability. You aren’t.”

This isn’t the first time Bungie has had to go to court to protect its employees from harassment. Last year, the company filed suit against serial cheater Luca Leone who threatened and taunted Bungie employees while repeatedly evading attempted bans from the game. That case continues to limp toward trial amid dueling affidavits and motions.

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