Social Media and Your Lawsuit
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.
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