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Originally published Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Woman sues for heartbreak via Facebook

A Michigan woman is seeking $8,386.88 from a Kennewick man because of a relationship gone bad via Facebook.

Tri-City Herald

quotes both are stupid Read more
quotes This woman needs to get a life. Read more
quotes She chose to go on this trip. If he didn't offer to help her pay in the first place... Read more

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KENNEWICK — Can you sue someone for a broken heart? A Michigan woman is seeking $8,386.88 from a Kennewick man because of a relationship gone bad via Facebook.

Cheryl Gray says Wylie Iwan led her on, caused her to spend money on gifts and a trip to the Tri-Cities, then humiliated her when he posted vulgar comments on her Facebook wall.

The 50-year-old unemployed paralegal admits she was "devastated" and angry when a week before her planned trip, he said he met someone else at a Kennewick bar.

Now, "I feel foolish," Gray said. "I'm not so much mad or angry. I feel foolish. I am disillusioned."

Iwan says he and Gray were just Facebook friends who played Mafia Wars together, but the friendship developed into an online relationship. Still, he said, he told her she was welcome to visit during spring break as "my friend."

When he met someone new, he said he was upfront with Gray about it and initially she was OK with it. But then, the 35-year-old who works at Applebee's said, Gray started a hate group about him on Facebook and called him an online predator.

"I want this lady to move on and leave me alone," said Iwan, who had to find an attorney in Michigan to represent him. "It's a completely frivolous lawsuit."

There have been lawsuits about jilted online friends who spent money on gifts or other things they want to recover, said Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University law professor. Whether a judge will hear a case often depends on whether it was a good-faith relationship or outright fraud.

"Courts get reluctant to regulate matters of the heart," Goldman said. "Judges don't really want to be in the middle of a lover's quarrel."

Gray, a single mother living in Livonia, Mich., with her 13-year-old daughter, said she played Mafia Wars on Facebook and met Iwan through the game because they were part of the same clan, or family.

They became Facebook friends in September and had about 300 friends in common, she said. During the next couple of months, they began talking through Facebook messages, and Gray said Iwan wanted to exchange personal information and get to know her.

They also talked on the phone, through text messages and via email, she said.

By late November or early December, Iwan created a special group page and invited her to join it, she said. The page was accessible only to people in the group, so she said it essentially was a secret page the two could use to talk.

"We spent an hour plus in the morning online and three, four, five, eight hours at night every day," Gray said.

She said Iwan used the word "friend" or "best friend," while at the same time saying, "I love you" or "I'm falling in love with you," and making plans for the future. "He led me to believe for a number of months that our meeting was to explore a potential relationship between the two of us," she said.

She sent him and his sons gifts for Christmas, his birthday and flowers on Valentine's Day. She bought airplane tickets and reserved a rental car for a trip to Kennewick from April 6-11 and reserved a hotel room in Seattle and got tickets to the Mariners' opening home game.

On March 30, Gray said Iwan told her he had met someone else four days earlier.

"I was just really devastated ... and I guess I was angry. I had done some very nice things for him," she said. "He supposedly met this person on Saturday, but I don't believe that. I believe he was already involved in a relationship. ... I felt like this guy is taking me on a ride."

Around the new year, Gray told him how much she enjoyed being his friend and wanted to get to know him better, Iwan said. He said he thought she was a great person and wanted to get to know her too.

"We decided — it wasn't all me — but we decided we wanted to meet each other. After that, things started toward a relationship and we started sharing more information," Iwan said. "For Valentine's Day, she said she wanted to tell me she loved me as a friend. I told her I love her, too. I was meaning it as a friend."

Iwan said when they first began talking, Gray said she was 42. After they got more personal and made plans to meet, she admitted she was 50. She also went back and forth a couple of times about whether she would make the trip to Kennewick, even after she bought the plane tickets, Iwan said.

He said he did meet someone new when he was at a bar with friends March 26. . He said he told Gray the next day about the other woman because he wanted to be upfront about everything.

"I was like, 'If you want to come down here as my friend, come down as my friend,' " he said.

Iwan, who still has copies of some of the messages, said Gray responded: "I think that's great :) I think you should pursue it :)"

Gray's attitude changed, however, later that day, Iwan said. She took screen shots of posts on the page they used, then started deleting everything, he said. She also posted comments on her Facebook wall and his wall about how he led her on for three months, Iwan said.

He admits posting a derogatory comment about her, but he said that was after she created the hate group about him.

Iwan said he wanted nothing to do with Gray "after she had done all her crazy stuff, after she created a hate group about me." He said he even disabled his Facebook account and stopped playing Mafia Wars because "she took all the fun away from that game."

On April 22, Iwan got an email from an attorney friend of Gray's seeking $956.88 for repayment of expenses related to the trip she didn't take, and gifts and flowers she sent him. A week later, Iwan got a second email that said Gray no longer was interested in pursuing the claim.

Then on May 18, Gray filed a civil suit in Michigan seeking $8,368.88 for misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She said she was "shocked, humiliated and embarrassed" by Iwan's characterization of her in posts that their shared friends could see and said her reputation was injured, according to court documents Gray filed.

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