NEW ORLEANS, LA — Plaintiffs are often alarmed when defense attorneys request access to their social media accounts. After all, our social media can contain highly personal information, such as our political or religious views, or simply pictures and opinions that we’ve shared with our friends, but wouldn’t want others to see. Defense attorneys now routinely cast a wide net, requesting that a plaintiff provide his username, downloads of his entire profile, or even his password and authorization information, so that they can search for any evidence which might reduce the plaintiff’s claims. The implication is that if the plaintiff has nothing to hide, he will surrender all of his social media data for inspection.
However, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing discovery, specifically state that “discovery requests must be relevant and proportional” to the matter in controversy. Recent court rulings demonstrate that social media shouldn’t be treated differently than more traditionally discoverable items, such as medical records or employment history. These rulings offer guidelines on how to determine what, if anything, of a client’s social media activity is discoverable to the opposition.
In Farley v. Callais and Sons, LLC, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rightly noted that any public social media post is already available to anyone wishing to see it, including opposing litigants. The Court then created a method of production which protected both the plaintiff’s right to privacy, and the defendant’s right to discovery of relevant information. Under the Farley v. Callais guidance, it is the client’s own attorney who reviews his client’s social media for claims-related posts. In this case, Farley’s attorney was instructed to review Farley’s social media, and produce to the defendants any posts pertaining to the accident or its resultant claims. Additionally, Farley was required to declare in writing that he had delivered all of this social media activity to his attorney, and Farley’s attorney would preserve that information in the event of any later dispute.
The Middle District of Tennessee, in Potts v. Dollar Tree Stores, took an even firmer position in the interest of a plaintiff’s privacy, deciding against giving the defense access to the plaintiff’s social media accounts because nothing in the plaintiff’s public activity related to his claims, and thus there was no evidence that further inspection of the plaintiff’s social media would lead to discoverable evidence regarding his claims against Dollar Tree.
If you’ve been involved in an accident, it’s extremely important that you do not delete anything from your social media pages, as this could be considered spoliation of evidence. If your attorney files a lawsuit, and the opposition requests your social media information, your attorney should protect your privacy by ensuring that the defense’s requests are in fact relevant to your case.
Contact an attorney at The de Boisblanc Law Firm today, who has the experience needed to protect your rights while securing you the recovery you deserve after your accident.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — In the aftermath of an accident, worry over bills causes additional stress to plaintiffs and their families. Lawsuit loans, commonly known in the industry as “legal financing,” appear to offer a promising way to secure funds while a case is litigated. However, some critics say that lawsuit loans are actually trapping vulnerable clients into contracts with fees that can equal more than 100% of the principle advanced.
The danger in lawsuit loans comes from the fact that they aren’t considered loans at all, but rather, are sold as “advances” or “purchased interest” in a client’s pending litigation. Since legal financing companies aren’t technically making “loans”, they aren’t bound by Louisiana’s usury laws, which restrict interest on most loans to 12%. In one typical case, a client struck by an 18-wheeler secured a $2,000.00 advance against his future settlement. The finance company charged a $720.00 processing fee, and if the client repaid the advance just one day after he took it, he would have owed $3,808.00. If his litigation continued for two years, the total amount he’d owe the finance company would be $7,072.00. A client is obligated to repay his advance, plus all agreed upon fees, before he receives any recovery from his own case.
Consumer advocates and lawmakers around the nation are concerned with what some see as the predatory nature of lawsuit loans, but very little regulation exists. Just five states have any sort of laws on the books regarding lawsuit lenders, and Louisiana isn’t one of them. A 2014 bill authored by Senator Dan W. Morrish, which sought to provide some structure for legal financers operating in Louisiana, didn’t clear the legislature. Instead, the industry sets its own professional standards through the American Legal Finance Association. Those lenders who become members agree to a Code of Conduct with provisos against such behavior as interfering in a client’s litigation, or intentionally advancing money in excess of what the case is worth. There is no need for a finance company to join the ALFA, in order to offer its services to the public.
Most attorneys will advise a client to exhaust any other means of securing a loan, before signing up with a legal financing company. As a last resort, lawsuit loans provide clients with money needed to pay medical bills or cover expenses after an injury, and because the lender is advancing money against a settlement, a client with a negative credit score or lack of traditional collateral can still receive funds. But the cost of such a loan can be astronomical, and may significantly reduce any recovery the client is able to get out of his settlement.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s essential to contact an experienced attorney who will provide you with the best guidance on how to recover the maximum settlement for your injuries. Call The de Boisblanc Law Firm today at (504) 762-9418.