Match.com settles suit with pledge to screen out sex offenders [Updated]
Online dating giant Match.com settled a lawsuit Tuesday with a rape victim by committing to perform security background checks on all current and future members.
Hollywood screenwriter and author Carole Markin sued the leading Internet matchmaker after it linked her up last year with Alan Paul Wurtzel of Pacific Palisades, who had at least six previous sexual assault convictions.
Wurtzel, 67, pleaded no contest to sexual battery last week and faces a year in jail and five years' probation when he is sentenced Sept. 19.
In her lawsuit filed in April, Markin, 54, demanded that Match.com screen members against state and federal sex-offender registries, in hopes of getting the rest of the booming industry to follow suit.
Her attorney, Mark Webb, predicted a "domino effect" among other match-making services and social networking sites. Indeed, online dating services eHarmony and Zoosk confirmed Tuesday that they, too, were checking members against criminal databases to enhance security for their members.
[Updated: 10:15 a.m.] A spokeswoman for Zoosk said the company was still evaluating screening options and had not yet begun vetting members.
"If I save one woman from getting attacked, then I'm happy," said Markin, who asked for no monetary compensation and gave up all rights to pursue Match.com with further claims.
Robert Platt, an attorney for Match.com, said the company has no legal obligation to conduct such checks but believes the technological advancements of recent years and the availability of criminal databases "enables a sufficient degree of accuracy to implement this measure."
Legal experts note that courts have so far ruled that online dating and networking sites aren't liable for financial or physical harm experienced by members but that it was only a matter of time before some responsibility was recognized for taking available and affordable precautions to protect users.
-- Carol J. Williams
Photo: Alan Paul Wurtzel. Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5