There have been quite a few articles warning those involved in divorce proceedings about the dangers of Facebook, but not too many articles have espoused the same caution for personal injury claimants. That may well change, though, thanks to a Suffolk County judge who ruled that material culled from web-based social networks can be used as evidence.
The New York personal injury lawsuit in question involved a woman who had sued a chair manufacturer for injuries incurred during her use of a defective office chair. In collecting evidence for the defense, lawyers hired by the chair company asked that they be allowed to consider information pulled from the woman’s Facebook page.
After consideration, the judge ruled that information on the socialnetwork was not protected under the Electronic Communications PrivacyAct of 1986. The woman plans to appeal the decision and, as AaronRutkoff points out in The Wall Street Journal, the ruling only applies to this specific case.
However, it’s a reminder that what we post online is far fromprivate – at least in a traditional sense. In a time where so manypeople actively “live” online, it becomes harder to separate publicfrom private. In some legal situations, this blurring of the line couldhave major implications.
In this case, the defense felt that pictures and updates on theplaintiff’s profile showed a lack of pain and suffering. Though, itdoes seem unlikely that one would choose to post pictures and updatesbemoaning an injury.
Regardless, the takeaway here is caution. Whatever can be usedagainst you in court will be. Be aware of that and, while you shouldn’thave to compromise your rights, it may pay to exercise discretion.