Social Media & Litigation

facebook warningCommon sense tells us to never put things on social media that we wouldn’t want the whole world to see. Even if you understand and engage the privacy settings, there’s no guarantee that the photos, videos, or other material that you’ve uploaded and intended for the private viewing of selected friends and family won’t eventually make its way into the public domain.

Prescott v. Willis – Auto Accident Victim with Facebook Photos

Consider the case of Prescott v. Willis. The Plaintiff in this case is a young woman who was injured in a motor-vehicle accident involving her car and a school bus driven by the Defendant. In civil cases of this type, each side is entitled to “discovery”, which means access to almost anything (pictures, videos, memos, letters, emails, records, etc.) held by the other side which is related to the subject-matter of the case.

The Defendant in this case happened to look at the Plaintiff’s Facebook account, and noticed that the Plaintiff had posted several pictures taken sometime after the accident at her school dance. The pictures showed the Plaintiff engaging in activities, like dancing with her friends, that were inconsistent with the injuries she claimed to have suffered. Based on this, the Judge ordered the Plaintiff to give her Facebook username and password to the Defendant for a limited time so the Defendant could have unrestricted access to her private postings as well. The court held that there was enough evidence in the public postings to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood of the existence of additional relevant evidence in the privately accessible portions of the Plaintiff’s Facebook profile.

We expect this type of request to become commonplace in all civil and criminal discovery actions before long, especially where there is already incriminating material available in the public portion of the page. This advice is equally as applicable to Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites.

Lesson to be learned: Public or private, if you wouldn’t show it your parents or at a PTA meeting, just don’t post it.

Posted on December 18, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Social Media & Litigation.

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