Can Social Media Posts Be Used in a Lawsuit?
Do you belong to any social networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine, Google Plus, etc.? You need to be aware that whatever you write, post, or tag, or whatever you have already written, posted, or tagged, including photographs, may be used against you in your lawsuit without your knowledge or permission.
Even by changing your privacy settings to the highest setting possible so that nothing is public may not protect this information from being discoverable in litigation. Because this information has been placed in a public forum, even if you designate it “private”, you still have no expectation of privacy in the information that you have placed online.
In Largent v. Reed, 2011 WL 5632688 (Pa. Com.Pl. Franklin County) the plaintiff Jennifer Largent filed a lawsuit claiming serious and permanent physical and mental injuries and pain and suffering as a result of a motor vehicle collision. During her deposition, Largent testified that she regularly accessed her Facebook account but refused to disclose any information about her account.
The opposing party argued that certain posts on her Facebook account contradicted her claims of serious and severe injury, including photographs that showed her enjoying life with her family and a status update about going to the gym. The Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, ordered Largent to turn over her Facebook username and password to the opposing party.
There are some things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of damaging evidence being used against you.
• STOP actively posting, commenting, “Liking,” uploading or tagging to any of your social media sites.
• DO NOT take any “selfies” or allow yourself to be included in any group “selfie” pictures.
• DO NOT accept any “friend” or contact request from any individual on any social media site unless you are absolutely sure you know that individual personally.
• DO NOT download, access, or use any insurance company mobile app.
• DO NOT, to the extent possible, allow or permit any of your friends or family members to take any photographs of you, your activities, or your injuries, unless requested by your attorney.
• DO NOT allow or permit any of your friends or family to post any comments of, about, or in reference to you on their social media sites.
• DO NOT allow or permit any of your friends or family to “tag” you in any photographs or videos on their social media sites.
• DO NOT access, log into, or use any insurance company websites.
• DO NOT participate in any blogs, online chats, or message boards.
• DO NOT send any emails, texts, instant messages, direct messages or have any other electronic communications with any individual other than your attorney about your accident, your injuries, or anything else having to do with this claim.
• DO NOT delete, destroy, or otherwise remove any post, comment, photograph or video that currently exists on any of your social media sites.
• DO NOT shut down, cancel, deactivate or suspend any of your social media sites.
• DO make sure that the settings on all of your social media sites are set to the highest privacy settings possible.
• DO “think before you post / comment / tweet / upload.”
The bottom line is “think before you post/tweet/comment.” If you are unsure whether a comment, tweet, or post you want to make is appropriate or potentially harmful, err on the side of caution and do not do it. If you are still unsure, feel free to contact your attorney to discuss before you do so.
by Beth Cole and Sam Abloeser