Facebook and Rules of Discovery – Trend Is Toward Full Disclosure
April 10, 2014
A New Jersey Facebook ruling means online posts may be used as evidence against a party. During before and after a personal injury cause of action is commenced, it is important to remember that anything you say and/or do may be used against you. It is important that you mind what you put in the public. While Illinois Courts have not yet had the opportunity to digest the issues represented by Facebook, it would not be surprising if a Court allows, at the very least, a limited inquiry about specific posts a plaintiff and/or defendant has made that may be used as an admission against interest. Best practice, of course, is not to mention anything about any ongoing litigation in any post whatsoever.
“Parents warn their teenagers about Internet dangers, from cyber bullying to potential predators, but may not realize the personal legal risks they face themselves when using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. A recent federal court in New Jersey has ruled online posts may be discoverable as evidence in some legal cases…
The ruling by a Magistrate Judge with the United States District Court in the District of New Jersey has taken a big step toward the forced disclosure of online social media postings as possible evidence in court cases and lawsuits. Specifically, content posted to social media websites may be considered evidence and is subject to the same laws against evidence tampering as physical documents.
In the case of Gatto v. United Airlines and Allied Aviation Services, Frank Gatto, a former baggage handler at John F. Kennedy Airport, sued United Airlines and Allied Aviation Services for damages following a workplace-related injury which he claimed left him permanently disabled, impairing his ability to work or engage in social activities.” The defendants “sought authorization to access Gatto’s Facebook data,” and a judge authorized the access directly through Gatto’s login. “Gatto had deactivated his Facebook account and it’s contents were automatically deleted after 14 days.” A judge “ruled that deletion of data in Gatto’s Facebook account constituted ‘spoliation of evidence,’” which “resulted in an adverse inference against Gatto.”