PA Catastrophic Injury and Car Accident Lawyers at Reiff & Bily Successfully Argue for Denial of Facebook Discovery Requests
In one of our recent cases, counsel for the defendant sought to discover information posted by our client on Facebook and sought to delve deeper into the client’s private and personal life involving sexual and confidential matters.
The lawyers at Reiff & Bily successfully argued to the Court that the intrusions of privacy that such discovery would cause were not offset by any showing that the discovery would assist the requesting party in presenting its case. Many cases involving social medial networking are weaving their way through Pennsylvania courts and case law continues to accumulate with rulings governing when social media content may be discoverable during litigation.
Earlier this year, I wrote several articles regarding problems with social media postings as we had received reports from clients who had been friended on Facebook by individuals they could not identify. Our office policy is to always advise clients never to accept friends that they do not know on any social media as more likely than not, there is probably not a good purpose to this friending or meeting. As a matter of fact, we strongly recommend that all of our clients involved in litigation suspend any and all messaging and posting on social media websites until the conclusion of their legal case.
In a recent opinion by the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the Court was called upon wherein defendants sought to access a plaintiff’s Facebook profile. The Court discussed opinions of other state courts and Federal courts pertaining to the discovery of Facebook content and denied the defense request with the reasoning that intrusions caused by such discovery were not offset by any showing that the discovery would assist the requesting party in presenting its case. The Court based its ruling on Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 4011(b) which bars discovery that would cause “unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression …” The Court further noted that a Court Order which gives an opposing party access to Facebook postings that were intended to be available only to persons designated as “friends” is intrusive because the opposing party will likely gain access to a great deal of information that has nothing to do with the litigation and may cause embarrassment if viewed by persons we were not “friends”. In interpreting this opinion, it appears that the party seeking such Facebook discovery would be imposed with the burden to show that such discovery would produce relevant evidence not otherwise available that will support the case of the party seeking discovery.
As an experienced Pennsylvania car accident lawyer, I believe that the decision of the Court is an excellent, well-reasoned decision and a step in the right direction for protecting litigants’ rights and privacy in matters not directly related to pending litigation.