What Happens When a Case Goes Viral?

Last summer, a lawsuit was playing out in Jefferson County Court and online after it went viral on social media. While many lawyers would advise clients to not post about active litigation online, for one Colorado woman, online fame helped her case. 

When Taralyn Romero posted her first video on TikTok last August, she had hoped the account would be a way to find moments of humor in a dark time. 

But when one of her videos went viral just days after she began her account (it currently has 4.4 million views), Romero realized her TikTok could be something more: a tool to tell her story. 

Romero’s TikTok account brought a small town conflict to a global audience, and her story struck a chord for many. Now that the case has settled, Romero believes her social media following was an asset for her court case but cautions others from trying to do the same thing. 

A Small Town Story Goes Viral 

In the months after her first viral video, Romero’s account continued to grow. Currently, Romero’s TikTok account (wickedwitch_ofthe_west) has more than 170,000 followers, over 3.2 million likes and more than 10 million views on her videos. 

Her content has mostly focused on her experience leading up to and in the midst of the lawsuit filed in July 2022 against Romero and her fiance Michael Eymer by Jefferson County’s Board of County Commissioners (a Jefferson County Court agreed to drop Eymer as a defendant in the case in January). 

Jefferson County filed the lawsuit in hopes of taking possession of a parcel of land across the river from the home the couple bought in March 2021 in Kittredge, Colorado, a small town on the western edge of Jefferson County. 

For years before Eymer and Romero bought their home overlooking Bear Creek, members of the public had used the land on the other side of the water to access the creek from a nearby public park. When they had bought the house, the couple wasn’t aware of this and understood the land to be their private property. 

Eymer and Romero came to realize that the land was used as an extension of the park in the spring and summer of 2021 when the weather got warmer. Romero said after realizing this, she tried to assert private property rights to the land while also trying to create and enforce rules (such as no digging) to keep access to the creek open to the public. But tensions between the property owners and the Kittredge community grew and spilled over to Facebook groups and on NextDoor. 

By the time Jefferson County filed its lawsuit, which, among other things, argued the county was entitled to the land through adverse possession, Romero said she felt like she’d been cast as a villain (her username, wickedwitch_ofthe_west, is a nod to that) in her community.

Less than a year later, Romero believes her fame on social media helped shift public opinion and helped lead to the case settling. 

A Platform and an Opportunity  

In May, Jefferson County and Romero settled the lawsuit several weeks before the case was scheduled for trial. Under the settlement, Romero will receive $250,000 and the disputed portion of land will be divided in two, with one side belonging to the couple and the other creating permanent public access to the creek as part of the park. 

Romero considers the settlement a “win-win” and believes TikTok is a significant reason it was brought to the table. 

“I do credit that attention and the ability to get the truth out on what was happening to me for this settlement being brought to the table,” said Romero. 

When her first video went viral, Romero said comments were a mixed bag with some viewers throwing support behind her and others questioning her story. But, as time went on and she continued posting, Romero said she built a group of followers that were sympathetic to her case and wanted to help. 

Followers from around the world sent emails to the three elected Jefferson County commissioners expressing support for Romero. She believes that pressure, as well as media coverage of the case, were factors that led to the settlement agreement. 

“If you think about it from their perspective, the government’s hearing from what probably seems like a lot of people at the time: outraged community members who are all outraged at me,” said Romero. “When I started getting the microphone, and the platform and media and the press, that completely went the other way.” 

Her followers have also donated towards legal fees on GoFundMe (so far she’s raised $14,425 from 339 donations) and Romero now sells merchandise on Etsy

Social Media in an Active Court Case

As a rule of thumb, most lawyers advise their clients to keep quiet about active litigation on social media. Posting about an active case can be a minefield: comments, photos, videos and other information from a post could be used against a litigant or posts that come up in court could give unintentional impressions to a judge or jury. 

Romero said she was very aware of these dangers when she first began posting about the case on social media. 

While she declined to comment on any specific advice she received from her attorneys about her TikTok account, Romero said generally it was in line with what nearly every lawyer would advise. At the time of settlement, Romero was represented by attorneys at Timmins LLC and Fidelity National Law Group. 

Romero kept her account active, which she recognizes was a risky move. “Just the fact that I was willing to talk about my lawsuit on my TikTok, that’s bold, that’s super high risk,” said Romero. 

In keeping her account active, Romero said she acknowledged the risks and personally took on responsibility for ensuring her content didn’t cross the line. 

“That comes with an incredible burden to educate yourself on all the ways that you can breach client attorney privilege or that you can tank your own case,” she added. “You really have to understand the nuances of your own lawsuit and the legal boundaries.”

‘That Magic Combination’ 

While cultivating a TikTok following was an asset for Romero’s defense, she doesn’t think her approach is for everyone.

“Since my settlement agreement, I’ve had people all over the country reaching out to me saying, ‘Will you help me do what you did?,’” said Romero. “And nine times out of 10, I don’t see how social media helps you in any way.”

First, Romero emphasized her decision to post about the litigation was risky and said the potential benefits of a social media following won’t outweigh those risks in all cases. 

Romero thinks one reason her TikTok account became popular was because her story touched on relatable themes and issues of public interest like community ostracization, private property rights and large government. She thinks people without any connections to Kittredge felt a sense of injustice about the lawsuit. 

“With elected officials suing me on a matter that greatly concerned the public and constitutional property rights, it kind of had all the elements for that magic combination that works,” said Romero. 

Romero also believes that keeping “receipts” was a key reason followers supported her version of events. Receipts are informal evidence (such as screenshots of communications, images, videos or documents) shared online, usually on social media, to back up someone’s claims. Romero said receipts were an essential part of winning in the court of public opinion. 

If someone creates a following of supporters on social media around litigation, Romero said they need to ask themselves what that following will help with. 

“Once you get exposure, what do you want people to do?” explained Romero, who said in her case, TikTok helped create political pressure for Jefferson County. If someone is sued by a neighbor, a large social media following probably won’t have the same effect as it did in her case, she added. 

Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is Romero. 

Now that her case has finished, Romero hopes to bring attention to other stories that touch on similar themes like adverse possession and private property rights. She said since starting her account, she’s heard about cases from across the country that she feels are unjust and hopes that by sharing those stories with her followers, they can spark change. 

“I believe I have a calling now: to bang the drum with purpose,” said Romero. “To help other property owners who are currently all alone fighting a narrative… if we collectively as a people are banging the drum and saying ‘this is wrong,’  there’s power in that.” 

Previous articleCourt Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for June 12
Next articleCourt Opinions: Colorado Supreme Court Opinions for June 12


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here