Court limits access to a plaintiff’s Facebook account

Only content which contradicts with plaintiff’s allegations permitted for evidence

The First Department of the Appellate Division in New York set restrictions yesterday for the extent to which a man’s Facebook account may be used against him in a personal-injury lawsuit. In doing so, the court cast a light on the growing limitations for lawyers who wish to use social media in litigation.

After Russell Patterson filed a personal injury suit against Turner Construction Co., the company attempted to use information from Russell Patterson’s Facebook account to prove that he was misrepresenting his injuries. When Patterson’s lawyers objected, the appeals court declared the company could not have unlimited access to the private account. The court did, however, allow Turner to use information from Patterson’s Facebook account in discovery with a specified set of conditions for using the information.

In returning the case to the state court, the appellate court instructed New York Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Oing to explore “more specific identification of plaintiff’s Facebook information that is relevant, in that it contradicts or conflicts with plaintiff’s alleged restrictions, disabilities, and losses, and other claims.”

Information from Facebook accounts is sometimes used to argue against civil allegations, as evidenced last year when a Suffolk County woman’s Facebook disproved her accusation that an injury had prevented her from walking when defendants introduced pictures showing her walking in front of her house.

Click here for more on the use of social media in the court. 

Danielle Feinstein

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