Sunday, December 4, 2011
Judge Van Jura of Luzerne County Bucks the Trend on Facebook Discovery in a Facts-Specific Case
Judge Joseph Van Jura recently bucked the trend of trial courts allowing discovery of a Plaintiff's Facebook page by denying a defendant's motion to compel in the facts-specific case of Kalinowski v. Kirschenheiter and National Indemn. Co., No. 6779 of 2010 (C.P. Luz. Co. 2011 Van Jura, J.).
The Kalinowski case arises out of a motor vehicle accident. During the Plaintiff's deposition, the defense learned that the Plaintiff had Facebook and MySpace pages both on a personal basis and separately with respect to a bar he owned and operated. At the deposition, the Plaintiff refused to disclose his login information or otherwise agree to allow the defense to view the non-public portions of his web pages.
Following the deposition, the defense made another request for access to the Plaintiff's Facebook and MySpace pages and, when that information was not forthcoming, filed a motion to compel along with a motion for an order directing the Plaintiff to preserve the contents of the web pages.
The Plaintiff opposed the motion to compel arguing that that the defense was seeking additional information on tangential issues and as part of an effort to embarrass the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff also argued that compelling him to grant access to his web pages would compromise his privacy interests. The Plaintiff also noted that the request for access to his business-related web pages was irrelevant given that the Plaintiff was not pursuing any wage loss claims. Finally, the Plaintiff additionally asserted that the defense had already discovered information from the publicly available portions of the Facebook and MySpace pages.
In his Order without Opinion, Judge Van Jura denied the defense motion to compel "without prejudice," apparently leaving the door open for the issue to be revisited. The court also granted the defense motion to preserve and ordered the Plaintiff not to delete any of the content on the subject websites.
Anyone desiring a copy of the Court's Order, the carrier Defendant's motion to compel, the carrier Defendant's motion to preserve, and the Plaintiff's Brief in opposition filed in this matter may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I send thanks to Attorney Ann Farias of the O'Donnell Law Offices in Kingston, PA for advising me this decision.