Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Access to Plaintiff's Facebook Page Allowed in Federal Middle District Court Personal Injury Matter

Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania recently reviewed the issue of whether information contained within a party's Facebook account is properly subject to discovery in the case of Offenback v. L.M. Bowman, Inc., 2011 WL 2491371 (M.D.Pa. June 22, 2011 Carlson, M.J.)

This matter involved a November of 2008 motor vehicle accident that allegedly resulted in severe injuries for the plaintiff limiting his ability to sit, walk, stand, bend, stoop, push, pull and lift. The plaintiff also specifically claimed that he could not drive for any period of time and was physically limited with regard to riding his bicycle or motorcycle.

In discovery, the defendant requested access to the plaintiff's Facebook page under Fed.R.C.P. 26(b)(1).  The court granted the request of both parties that the court conduct an in camera review of the Facebook page as part of the court's analysis.

After this in camera review of the plaintiff's Facebook account, the court found that much of the information on the page was irrelevant, but that the postings on the page suggesting that plaintiff engaged in certain activities after the car accident were discoverable.

More specifically, the court found that postings showing the plaintiff had taken post-accident motorcycle rides, mule rides and hunting trips were relevant and discoverable in light of plaintiff's claims of functional limitations in this matter.

Anyone desiring a copy of the decision by the U.S. Magistrate Judge (an Order only with explanatory commentary) in Offenback v. L.M. Bowman, Inc. may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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