SIOUX CITY, IOWA – The US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa has ordered the city of Sibley not to sue a resident for using social media to complain about the stench of a local dog-food processing plant, causing the internet to wonder, “What was the city thinking?”
In 2013, after receiving financial incentives from the city government, Iowa Drying and Processing began operations in the small town of Sibley. According to their website, their product is “food and feed grade products,” created by rendering such appetizing items as “turkey digest.” The plant brought twenty-six jobs to the small town, but unfortunately, it also brought a nuisance that residents couldn’t ignore: a pervasive and gagging stench that permeated the entire town, especially on hot and humid days.
Wade Elerbroek, a Sibley resident and business owner, described the smell as “as rancid and dead animal-like” in the Sioux City Journal. Residents complained that the smell was so noxious, it prevented them from being able to use their air-conditioners, open their windows, or even dine in the small town’s restaurants. They christened IDP’s plant, “The Blood Plant,” and complained to their city government.
In 2015, frustrated by what he perceived to be that government’s inaction, resident and web designer Josh Harms created the website Should You Move To Sibley, Iowa? where he pointed out the town’s attractions, such as hiking trails and his favorite Mexican restaurant, and contrasted those local perks against the asphyxiating aroma of stale blood and processed animal parts.
While it took the city government two years to discover the website, once they did, they were not amused, and they felt compelled to take action against Harms for publishing his critical blog. As reported in The Des Moines Register, an attorney for the city sent Harms a cease and desist letter, advising him he had ten days to remove his website or be sued. The city claimed that Harm’s website “libels Sibley, interferes with the recruitment of businesses and new residents, and negatively affects property rights.” Another attorney also warned Harms against speaking to reporters. Harms went straight to the ACLU, and a complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, where Harms alleged the city was violating his First Amendment and Civil Rights. “Receiving this threat from the city was the first time I’ve ever felt afraid that what I might write and put online would make me a target of my own government,” Harms said in a statement.
The US District Court agreed, and issued an injunction on Thursday, March 29, 2018, preventing the city government of Sibley from threatening legal action against Harms due to his critical website; it also prevents the city from telling Harms he can’t talk to the media.
ACLU Legal Director of Iowa, Rita Bettis, stated “Today’s outcome sends a strong message to the city of Sibley and all Iowa government officials to respect the free speech rights of Iowans. The right of the people to freely and openly criticize their government is the very foundation of democracy. In America, the government cannot threaten legal action against someone for speaking out against it.”
The Constitution thus defended, Harms returned to work on his website, where he now offers a bit of legal advice for governments large and small, concerning the definition of libel, and the illumination of citizens’ rights, in hopes of avoiding future confusion. The city, for its part, has fined the “Blood Plant” and sought its own legal remedies. According to Harms, the odor has improved, although noxious fumes occasionally return to plague the citizens. As for the dog food plant, they state they are actively working to mitigate the fumes, and they’re also considering moving to greener pastures.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a common, costly, and often fatal result of a motor vehicle crash. It can be caused when the head strikes or is struck by an object, or is subjected to the violent jarring motion known as “whiplash” that is often caused in car or truck crashes. The American Academy of Neurosurgeons estimates that nearly 1.7 million brain injuries occur each year, and of these, up to 70% may be caused by motor vehicle collisions. According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of TBI death for persons 5-24 years of age.
However, even if the victim survives the brain injury, his or her life will likely be forever changed. In the most severe cases, the victim will require medical life-support or around-the-clock nursing care. Even in minor cases, symptoms such as “confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking” may interfere with or take away the victim’s ability to earn income. Medical science cannot yet reverse injury done to the brain, although rest, and hyperbaric treatments, may help to improve symptoms. This means that the victim may lose their lifetime income following a TBI, just when their medical bills are rapidly piling up.
The cost of caring for someone who has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury will be directly related to the severity of their injury. The CDC estimated that the annual cost of TBI in the United states is around $76 billion dollars. An individual with even minor brain injuries can expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars on neurological consultations and rehabilitation. The annual estimated cost in 1991 dollars for a severe TBI was approximately $222,600. When these costs are added to the estimated lifetime loss of income, it becomes clear that the all-to-common TBI is as devastating financially as it is medically.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car collision, emergency medical care may not initially diagnose a Traumatic Brain Injury. While medical science advances and most emergency physicians will examine the motor vehicle collision victim for signs of concussion and brain injury, mild injury has been referred to as “the silent epidemic” due to the alarming potential for missed diagnosis. It is essential that you report any symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, or disorientation to your doctor both at the ER and during your follow-up care. And due to the high costs of medical care, and potential for loss of income, it is equally important that all car crash patients or those who care for them seek immediate legal advice to determine if they are able to recover for the damages, past and future, that are associated with car-crash related TBI.
The de Boisblanc Law Firm is experienced in handling victims of TBI, whether caused by a car crash or another form of accident. If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving a head injury, we can help you pursue financial recovery from the person who caused your injury, which will help you protect yourself or your loved one during this exceptionally challenging and uncertain time.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Is the City of New Orleans liable for August 5, 2017 Orleans Parish flooding?
Before the waters receded, New Orleans residents witnessed an astonishing display of conflicting messages and finger pointing. Initially, residents were told by New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Director Cedric Grant that the flooding was caused by climate change, and should be considered a new normal. This prompted considerable backlash, and as Jefferson Parish didn’t share in the diluvian nightmare, Orleans Parish residents wondered aloud what properties the Orleans-Jefferson parish border had to stop climate change. At the same time, citizens shared their own live videos and photographs of idle pumping stations, and slowly the city admitted that several pumps hadn’t been in operation, due to “routine maintenance”. Over the course of the next few days, New Orleans witnessed the resignation of Director Grant, who blamed his staff for giving him “bad information.” Heads rolled at the utility, a fire occurred in one of the turbines driving the pumps, and by Sunday, August 9, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told New Orleans that 17 of the city’s 121 pumps were in need of “emergency maintenance”, that “outstanding maintenance issues (could be) hindering even some of the 103 pumps considered to be in working order,” and only two of the city’s six turbines were operational. Echoing Cedric Grant, Mayor Landrieu, the President of the Utility’s Board of Directors, stated that he had not been aware of the issues plaguing the critical flood-mitigation infrastructure.
Not knowing a problem exists doesn’t always prevent a party from being held liable. When considering torts– acts or omissions that cause injury or harm—a party may be held liable if he knew or should have known that his action (or lack of) could cause injury or harm. Negligent torts occur when a party’s actions are unreasonably unsafe, and the party defendant owed the plaintiff a reasonable standard of care. Going further, gross negligence is “a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.”
In considering whether or not Mayor Landrieu and the Sewerage and Water Board are liable for flood related damages, we must determine if the Mayor and the Utility knew or should have known about the systemic failure of their pump systems. It may have been that the failure occurred immediately prior to the rain event which led to the flooding, and in that case, the Mayor and the Utility might have been able to claim all innocence of the failure. While operational data can be subpoenaed during litigation, we may look to the Utility’s own 2011-2020 Strategic Plan, obtainable at https://www.swbno.org/docs.asp. In this plan, the Sewerage and Water Board states on page four under “Weaknesses” that they have “deferred maintenance of infrastructure.” This suggests a potential pattern of the Sewerage and Water Board, under the direction of Mayor Landrieu, of postponing or even neglecting maintenance. The flooding event occurring six years after this self-identified operational weakness reveals that there is systemic failure in the infrastructure system, which suggests a gradual decline of capabilities only possible if the admitted “deferred maintenance” had not be corrected, after being recognized. Whether or not the Mayor states that he was not aware of any of these issues, as President of the Board of Directors, it is his responsibility to read strategic plans created for the improvement and success of the Utility. By this alone, we see that the Sewerage and Water Board knew that the deferred maintenance of their infrastructure was a weakness, and that Mayor Landrieu should have known that the maintenance of infrastructure was a challenge for the Utility. While only operational details will fully clarify the issue, it stands to reason that the systemic infrastructure failure that caused the flood of August 2017 would only be possible had that infrastructure lacked in critical maintenance. Therefore, the Mayor and the Sewerage and Water Board may be exposed to the allegation that they committed a tort against the citizens of New Orleans.
In determining whether or not the Mayor and Utility were grossly negligent, it is clear that failing to maintain flood-mitigation infrastructure could foreseeably cause harm. New Orleans, a city below sea-level and sandwiched between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, is not only susceptible to flooding, it is prone to intense hurricanes. No resident will forget Hurricane Katrina, which cost an upwards of 1,500 lives mainly due to flooding caused when the levee system failed to protect the city. However, it isn’t enough to be able to foresee harm; the Mayor and the Utility must have engaged in a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care. To determine that possibility, we examine the importance placed upon the Sewerage and Water Board’s pumping infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Utility itself. In the aftermath of the devastation, Congress authorized more than 14 billion dollars in funding to repair and upgrade the flood-mitigation infrastructure, and put in place myriad programs and partnerships between local, state, and federal government agencies to mitigate risk. The Sewerage and Water Board, in charge of the city’s flood-water drainage system, was identified as a partner in Department of Homeland Security flood resiliency training exercises. In 2007, FEMA identified the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans as a partner in complying with The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and earmarked $47,000 for the Utility to develop a compliant hazard mitigation plan. During the creation of this plan, the Utility identified its pumping stations as “critical” in mitigating hazards such as Katrina*. Only two years after the Utility designated the pumping infrastructure as “critical”, the Utility cites its own “deferred maintenance” as an operational weakness. The Mayor and the Utility were well aware of the essential, life-and-property protecting nature of the pumps; funds and direction from federal government partners had been made available to the City; and nonetheless, the Utility engaged in a pattern of deferred maintenance on infrastructure. On August 5, 2017, flood waters revealed that almost every single part of the pump system, from the pumps themselves to the turbines powering them, was significantly compromised. While discovery is needed to help us determine if there was a deficit of time or resources, whereby a more essential piece of flood-mitigation infrastructure, if any exists, took necessary resources away from the pump system, it appears on this examination that an allegation of gross negligence may be made against Mayor Landrieu, and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.
*Found at C:\Users\112589\AppData\Local\Temp\Hazard_Mitigation_Public_Meeting-1.pdf
NEW ORLEANS, LA —Nursing home neglect and abuse is in the news again, with the preventable death of an elderly man in Annandale, Minnesota. In an unimaginable instance of neglect and incompetence, the nursing home had “no system, policies, or procedures in place” to ensure that patients received their medication as prescribed.
Louisiana routinely fares much worse than Minnesota in nursing home evaluations, with patient-advocacy group Families For Better Care ranking Louisiana an “F” on an A-F scale in its most recent survey. States are rated in categories such as licensed nurse-patient ratios, health inspection results, and number of ‘severe deficiency’ citations from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Data is drawn from CMS, and a ranking is assigned based on comparisons with other states. Another group, Medicare Advocacy, states that staffing deficiencies are a leading cause of patient neglect and harm. In a recent years, Louisiana nursing homes have received multiple deficiency citations, including “jeopardy-level” staffing deficiencies.
If your loved one has suffered neglect or harm in a nursing home facility, he or she may be able to recover damages. In any case of medical malpractice, a plaintiff can only win if it is proven that a doctor, or facility, failed to meet the medical standard of care, or in other words, if the doctor or facility failed to provide “the type and level of care an ordinary, prudent, health care professional, with the same training and experience, would provide under similar circumstances in the same community.”
Nursing homes have very specific standards that they must maintain. Facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid must follow strict federal regulations, and are subject to inspections by federal monitors. All nursing homes must be licensed. When selecting a nursing home for your loved one, be sure to check the results of each facility’s most recent inspections. Should you believe that your loved one has been harmed by the neglect or failure of a doctor, or nursing home staff member, an experienced attorney can determined whether or not the harm to your family member was due to the facility’s failure to meet the medical standard of care. If so, you may be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice case.
Often times, our elderly cannot speak up and advocate for themselves. It’s essential that we ensure that our elderly, if they must be in a nursing home, are in a facility that takes its responsibilities seriously, and meets all state and federal requirements. It is equally important that we help our elderly loved ones to find justice if they have been injured due to the neglect, incompetence, or abuse of a nursing home facility or its staff. Should you feel you or your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call The de Boisblanc Law Firm today, and speak to an attorney who will fight for the justice you deserve.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — When it comes to teens and car crashes, there are special risks involved. Teens make up approximately seven percent of the population, but according to the CDC, teenage drivers account for eleven percent of the costs of motor vehicle collisions. Even more disturbing, in 2015, six teenagers died every day from motor vehicle injuries.
Louisiana has taken steps to reduce the involvement of teenage drivers in car crashes, such as instituting a Graduated Driver’s License program, and forbidding teenage drivers from using cell phones while driving. But even with these proactive steps, Louisiana ranked 33rd in a recent study of teen driver safety by state.
Parents of teenage drivers need to make themselves aware of the risks involved when their child gets behind the wheel, so that they can take sensible steps to prevent teen car crashes. When inexperience combines with distractions such as having other teens in the car, or giving in to the temptation to use a cell phone, the chances of a teen’s involvement in a car crash raise significantly. Parents can take several actions to promote safe driving behavior which might reduce the risk that their child will be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Experts recommend talking to your child early and often about responsible driving, and modeling good driving habits for your child. It’s also important to set concrete rules about when your teen is allowed to use his or her vehicle, and what responsibilities he or she must fulfill in order to maintain driving privileges. Parental involvement is a key risk-prevention factor when it comes to teenage car crashes, and parents should discuss driver safety with their children early and often.
Parents should also be aware that they can be held legally liable for their teen’s car crash. In Louisiana, the doctrine of vicarious liability means that parents can be sued if their teenage driver is responsible for a car crash. If your teen has been involved in a car accident, it’s extremely important that you contact an attorney who can determine your risk of being sued due to any negligence your child may have committed leading to his or her crash. An experienced personal injury attorney at The de Boisblanc Law firm can help you recover damages if your child has been injured in a car crash, and will know how to best protect you and your teen should your child share any liability for the accident. Call The de Boisblanc Law Firm at (504) 586-0005 to schedule your free consultation today.
You’ve been injured in a car accident, and you’re ready to have an initial consultation with an attorney. You want to come prepared to this crucial appointment, but you’re not sure what to expect, or what information your attorney will need to get started.
Every personal injury case is different, but at your initial consultation you can expect to discuss the following three things: the accident itself, your health care needs, and your property damage.
At your initial consultation, your attorney will ask you important questions about the accident, and gather the contact information for any witnesses you may have. If you’ve taken pictures of the accident scene, you’ll be asked to text or email them to your lawyer’s office, so that the photographs can be used to help determine liability, or to help reconstruct the accident should your case go to trial. If you were wise and called the police, you’ll need to give your attorney the item number on the “auto accident information exchange” form, which will have been filled out by the responding officer, so that a full crash report can be obtained.
Securing proper health care is the next step at your initial consultation. An established law firm should be familiar with local health care providers, and will be knowledgeable about providers best suited to your particular injuries. According to Medscape rear-end collisions are most likely to cause injury to the neck, while front and side collisions commonly injure the spine or back. Neck and spine injuries often require expensive diagnostic imaging tests. The right attorney will be able to assist you with making arrangements for the funding for your treatment, without directing you to take high-fee “legal funding loans” that quickly deplete your future recovery. At your initial appointment with your attorney, you’ll need to sign a HIPPA release form authorizing your attorney to communicate with your doctors. Regular attendance at your medical appointments is essential to the success of your case, so at your first appointment with your attorney, be sure to mention any possible obstacles you may have to medical treatment, such as lack of transportation or regularly anticipated scheduling difficulties. This way, arrangements can be made–such as finding a provider with more convenient hours, or assisting you in obtaining a rental car–to make it easier for you to see your doctor.
Repairing your vehicle will also be discussed. Your attorney will contact the responsible driver’s insurance company to make arrangements to pay for the repair work, or to reimburse you for as much of your property damage expenses, should you have already had your vehicle repaired.
When you show up at your initial consultation, it’s important to have the following things:
- Your valid identification, along with your social security number
- A copy of the police incident report
- Any photographs you were able to take at the scene of the accident
- Any property damage repair bills you’ve had to date
- Discharge papers from the hospital emergency room
- All names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident
- Proof of automobile insurance, as without valid insurance, you will be unable to recover any damages, even if the other party was completely at fault
Being prepared for your initial consultation helps to get your case in motion. Recovering compensation for damages you received in a motor vehicle accident can be a lengthy and complicated process, but when you come prepared to your initial consultation, your attorney is able to go to work right away on your case. At The de Boisblanc Law Firm, our attorneys are well experienced and will assist you through every step of the process of getting you the recovery you deserve. And as always, your initial consultation is free of charge, and our attorneys only get paid when you do.
BATON ROUGE, LA – The Department of Transportation states that “speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes”, costing motorists $40.4 billion in crash-related expenses, along with 10,219 lives lost in 2012 alone. In an effort to cut down on truck crashes, Louisiana Representative Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) authored a bill before the legislature this session, which would lower speed limits for trucks on elevated interstate roadways extending five miles or longer. Carter’s bill passed through the House of Representative’s Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works unanimously on May 11, and is scheduled to be debated on the House floor on May 24. Studies from the National Highway Cooperative Research Program indicate “that higher speed limits were associated with an increased likelihood of deaths and incapacitating injuries”, supporting the argument that reducing speed limits for trucks will reduce the fatalities, injuries and expenses associated with truck crashes. And since speeding is one of the major causes of truck crashes, it stands to reason that lowering speed limits for trucks might significantly improve safety for all motorists.
However, Cathy Gautreaux of the Louisiana Motor Transportation Association criticizes the bill, which would also confine truck drivers to the right lane. Telling committee members, “there’s no way we could expect a truck driver to stay behind a mobile home,” Ms. Gautreaux argued that preventing truck drivers from passing slow motorists in the right line could actually cause a safety hazard. She believes that one of these hazards would be a line of trucks “queuing up” behind a slow right lane vehicle, without any provision in the legislation which would allow truck drivers to legally pass such an obstacle.
Currently in Louisiana, the speed limit for all motor vehicles is 75 mph on rural interstates, and 70 mph on urban interstates. Along with reducing the speed limit by ten miles per hour for large trucks, Representative Carter’s bill would also create a new initiative to research speed differentials as they relate to motor vehicle safety, and the reduction of collisions.
If you are involved in a truck crash, the most important thing to do is check yourself and your passengers for injuries. No matter what other motorists tell you to do, you shouldn’t move your vehicle unless your safety requires it. It’s important to take photographs of all of the vehicles involved in the collision, from multiple angles. Include photographs of the truck’s license plate and any other identifying information. The police should always be called, and it’s highly recommended that you allow emergency medical response personnel to examine you and transport you to the hospital. Finally, it’s important that you find legal representation. Insurance companies often try to offer small sums to accident victims, which rarely cover a victim’s ambulance ride expenses. An experienced lawyer like those at The de Boisblanc Law Firm can protect your rights against big insurance companies, and help you obtain the recovery you need after a serious truck accident. If you’ve been the victim of a truck crash, call The de Boisblanc Law Firm at (504) 586-0005, so that our attorneys can help you protect your rights and recover your damages.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Texting while driving is illegal in most states, but according to the Center for Disease Control’s statistics, “Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.” In Louisiana, texting while driving is punished with a fine of $175.00; subsequent offenses can cost up to $500.00. Yet even with these penalties, Louisiana motorists run a high risk of being hit by a distracted driver. Car crash statistics from the CDC, along with the Federal Communications Center, demonstrate that drivers continue to text and use social media while driving, regardless of laws prohibiting this risky behavior. Teenage drivers are the most likely to text while driving, but with the widespread popularity of mobile devices, drivers of all ages may succumb to the temptation to respond to that all-important text while behind the wheel. Tragically, making the wrong decision to respond to a text can easily cause a life-altering collision.
It is impossible for the responsible driver to protect himself from a collision caused by a distracted driver. Fortunately, should the unthinkable occur, the penalties for driving while texting offer responsible Louisiana motorists the chance to have to a speedier recovery after a collision with a distracted driver, as insurance companies and their attorneys will be more likely to settle if their insured motorist receives a citation for texting while driving. At The de Boisblanc Law Firm, your attorney will fight for proof that the distracted driver was using his mobile device illegally when he caused the collision that injured you or your passengers. The aftermath of a collision, even if it’s not your fault, generally involves major bills, such as ambulance bills, emergency room care, and car rental and repair expenses. Therefore, it’s important that a driver involved in a car accident call the police, and seek an experienced attorney to assist him in the process of making the responsible party pay for the damages caused.
Drivers should be cautioned by the statistic that it only takes a moment of checking your cell phone or social media, to become involved in a collision. If you’re struck by another motorist when driving, the first thing you should do is call the police, and then allow emergency medical services to assist you. The next step for the responsible driver is to find a competent attorney to recover damages from the distracted driver. Experiencing a motor vehicle collision is traumatic and costly, but the decisions you make in those early moments, will have long-lasting consequences in your ability to make the guilty party pay for the collision he caused.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Can your child support debt be seized from your personal injury settlement? If you are a non-custodial parent with a pending lawsuit or settlement, it’s important that you are current on all child support obligations. Federal law classifies personal injury settlements as assets subject to seizure in cases of child support delinquency; therefore, if you are behind in your child support, your settlement will be seized to settle your obligations. In the past, custodial parents who are owed support would have to appeal to Child Support Enforcement to collect on a settlement. Today, this process is automatic.
When a non-custodial parent goes into arrears on his or her child support payments, that parent’s name is entered into a statewide database. In Louisiana, this database is known as the Louisiana Insurance Intercept Database. Insurance companies register with the LIID, providing the database access to information on all individuals making claims against the insurance company. LIID computers then scan claimant information against records of child-support debtors, looking for matching social security numbers and other identifying information. When a match is found, the LIID notifies the state Child Support Enforcement Office, the insurance company, and the debtor himself. A Notice of Income Assignment is generated, which transfers the delinquent parent’s right to the settlement income to the beneficiary of the child support order. Finally, the insurance company notifies the debtor’s attorney, who must comply with the Child Support Enforcement Office and the Notice of Income Assignment. After legal fees, medical bills, and property damage claims, the remainder of your settlement will be applied to your child support debt, and you will only receive whatever funds remain after your child support debts are satisfied.
Should a non-custodial parent feel there has been a mistake, and he does not owe child support, he may file a petition to stop the income assignment. He will then be required to go before a judge, so that the court can determine whether or not the debt is valid. If the debt is proven to be valid, the non-custodial parent will also be ordered to pay for the cost of the court proceedings.
Most insurance companies participate in the LIID, and your attorney is bound by law to comply with any child support enforcement orders and liens. Therefore, it’s essential that all non-custodial parents paying child support verify that they are not in arrears on their support payments, before they file a personal injury claim.
If you are in doubt about whether or not child support arrears can affect your recovery after an accident, contact an attorney at The de Boisblanc Law Firm today.
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.