More and more, when lawsuits arise, even information set as private on social media accounts may be looked at as a source of evidence to support or reject an argument. In a New York personal injury lawsuit involving a horse riding accident, an appeals court recently ruled that Facebook photos are discoverable despite the fact they are set as private and that some periphery social media information is fair game.
The plaintiff in the case alleged in her lawsuit that she fell off a horse fitted with a defective stirrup causing spinal and brain injuries which affected her ability to use a computer or compose coherent messages. Naturally, the defense moved to see the Facebook account on the basis that her photos and posts were relevant to the scope of her injuries and credibility, which the court agreed with…to an extent.
While the court did not find that the entire Facebook account was discoverable in the lawsuit, it did allow discovery of private photos of the plaintiff before and after the accident. Although the court did not allow specific written content of private posts to be discovered, it did permit the release of Facebook records showing each time the plaintiff posted a private message and the number of words and characters in the message.
Although the court cautioned that courts should “consider the nature of the event giving rise to litigation and injuries claimed” to assess whether material is likely to be found on a social media account before handing over the keys, the whole affair should give everyone pause when posting to social media accounts, regardless of the privacy settings, lest their posts become exhibit A in court.
The Davenport, Iowa personal injury attorneys of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC serve the Quad-Cities community in matters of personal injury, workers’ compensation and employment law. Contact our offices today at 563-355-6478 for help with your legal matter.
Source: ABA Journal, “Not all private social media photos are subject to discovery, but some may be, says New York court”, by Stephanie Francis Ward, February 14, 2018.