Avoiding social networking sites if you are in the midst of a personal injury lawsuit may be a good idea. I will say it once, loud and clear: anything, dear users, that you post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or MySpace is fair game for your opponent and their counsel to use against you in court. “Anything” extends to photos, comments, profile information and videos. Romano v. Steelcase (NY Supreme Court, 2010) is a great example of how the courts have started to treat this type of information’s discoverability in personal injury lawsuits. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that she had suffered permanent injuries that kept her from enjoying certain activities, thereby limiting her ability to enjoy life. However, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s public Facebook and MySpace profiles showed the defendant allegedly leading an active lifestyle to the extent that it was inconsistent with the claims she made in the lawsuit. The court gave the defendant access to the plaintiff’s full accounts, outweighing right to privacy by need for information, because neither Facebook nor MySpace has complete privacy policies so the plaintiff had no real reasonable expectation of privacy for posts that she made. McCann v. Harleyville Ins. Co. (NY Supreme Court, 2010) also outweighed a plaintiff’s right to privacy with the defendant’s need for information in the plaintiff’s social networking profile, upholding the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant access to the plaintiff’s full Facebook account. If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, tell your attorney about it. I also advise clients to go through their friend lists and “unfriend” Any one they do not know, and to likewise not accept any friend invitations from people they do not know. Don’t post anything about your injuries or the lawsuit, and refrain from posting any pictures showing you partaking in activities that could be interpreted or misconstrued against you in your lawsuit. If you have already posted something on a social networking site that could potentially be harmful to your case in a lawsuit, you need to tell your lawyer immediately so that he or she can minimize its impact in your lawsuit.
Written by Barrett Sharpe
Barrett Sharpe, founder of AdDaddy Networks, is a law firm marketing, attorney advertising, and search engine optimization specialist. He has had his hand in many successful projects, including Lawyer Search and the widely known LegalHub website where attorneys and clients connect. He is available, on a very limited basis, for consulting in a number of fields. Mr Sharpe also operates a seminar, coaching and consulting business for law firms. He accepts communications from interested parties via fax and FedEx exclusively. (phone calls or emails will not be accepted, nor answered.) Barrett Sharpe, 3201 B North Davidson St., Charlotte, NC 28205, fax: (704) 488-0552