Court Rules Against Privacy Rights on Social Media
The outcome of more and more cases are turning on what is found on the plaintiff's social media pages. Just recently a court in Florida ruled that a plaintiff has limited privacy rights on social media. In Maria Nucci v. Target the plaintiff allegedly suffered neck, shoulder and back injuries when she slipped on something on the floor at Target. She required a cervical diskectomy and fusion so her injuries appeared quite serious. In these cases, the battleground is often whether the incident was the cause of the injury or was it due to either a pre-existing condition or a later incident.
Two days before her deposition she had 1,285 photos on her Facebook page and then about 40 pictures were removed. Target moved to inspect her Facebook page. She objected claiming a right to privacy and that the request was too broad. The court ultimately ordered Ms. Nucci to produce copies or screen shots of all pictures starting 2 years prior to the incident as well as all cell phone photos during that time period. The ruling wasn't really a surprise, but she appealed the ruling to a higher court. Typically these rulings are not appealed. The appellate court found that her privacy settings were immaterial as a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy on Facebook.
This is become a new norm in litigation. The defendants are looking for photos showing the plaintiff was injured prior to the event or showing the plaintiff is exaggerating or lying about his or her injuries.
A multi-million dollar verdict was overturned in Charlottesville a couple years ago when a plaintiff failed to turn over Facebook photos. The plaintiff prevailed on appeal, but was sanctioned. We stress to all new clients that there is no privacy on Facebook, Twitter, etc. regardless of the "privacy" setting. Nothing should be posted online that you wouldn't want shared with the world. The most important point though is to be truthful and then you have little to worry about.