A recent appellate court decision out of pitted the privacy rights of a personal injury Plaintiff against the discovery rights of a Defendant. The Defendant in a personal injury lawsuit requested various screenshots and copies of a Plaintiff’s social media profiles, including Facebook. The Plaintiff argued that she had activated the privacy settings on her Facebook profile so that it was not viewable by the general public. However, the Court ruled that the Plaintiff put her physical condition at issue in the lawsuit and required her to produce to the Defendant the requested pictures of herself from her Facebook page.
This case is a good reminder to Plaintiffs and to potential Plaintiffs that activating privacy settings is not enough to protect your privacy. Courts have routinely required Plaintiffs to produce screenshots or copies of pictures from “private” personal social media pages. Defendants will attempt to obtain copies of such pictures to either embarrass the Plaintiff or to “prove” that the Plaintiff is not that hurt by publishing photos to the jury of the Plaintiff performing routine tasks like carrying groceries or doing yard work. While anyone who has been injured understands that there are good days and bad days for the injury, and that sometimes you just have to grit through the pain to work and perform daily tasks, tricky Defendants will use innocuous pictures to paint a Plaintiff as a faker or malingerer.
Another lesson that this case teaches is that in the internet age, no matter the “privacy” settings activated; nothing on the internet is private. Be careful what you post or say on the internet.
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