Thursday, July 5, 2012

Judge Wettick Rules on Facebook Discovery Issues

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick, a renowned expert on discovery issues, has handed down a July 3, 2012 decision denying Facebook discovery in the case of Trail v. Lesko, 2012 WL 2864004, No. GD-10-017249 (C.P. Alleg. Co. July 3, 2012 Wettick, J).

Judge Wettick
After providing a detailed review of the issue over a 22 paged Opinion, which includes a background on Facebook itself and a review of decisions from both within Pennsylvania and from outside jurisdictions, Judge Wettick ruled that both the Plaintiff's and the Defendant's motions to compel access to the other's Facebook pages would be denied in this motor vehicle accident litigation.

In this matter, the Defendant initially denied being a driver of a vehicle involved of the accident at the time of the accident.  The Plaintiff wanted access to the Defendant's Facebook postings around the time of the accident to seek information to confirm the Defendant's whereabouts at the time of the accident or to possibly uncover witnesses who could shed light on this issue.

In response, Judge Wettick noted that the Defendant had admitted in the filings of the case, more than once, that he was indeed the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident.  Accordingly, the court found that the Plaintiff's request for access to the Defendant's Facebook pages should be denied in this regard.

The defense in this matter sought access to the Plaintiff's Facebook pages to seek out evidence related to the Plaintiff's claims of injury and impairment.  In support of their request, the defense provided the court with two photos from the Plaintiff's public Facebook pages which depicted the Plaintiff at a bar socializing and drinking at a party.

Judge Wettick noted that the Plaintiff did not allege that he was bedridden and found that the photos produced were not inconsistent with the Plaintiff's claims in this matter.

Judge Wettick denied the defense request for discovery of the private pages of the Paintiff's Facebook  profile and ultimately reasoned that, under Pa.R.C.P. 4011, such a request was unreasonably intrusive in that, in this particular case, "the intrusions that such discovery would cause were not offset by any showing that the discovery would assist the requesting party in presenting its case."  Trail at p. 20.

Anyone wishing to view this decision may click this LINK.

Anyone wishing to review the Tort Talk Facebook Discovery Scorecard can always scroll down the right hand column of the Tort Talk website ( and click on the date under "Facebook Discovery Scorecard" to access that listing of the cases uncovered to date.  Note that when you go to that page and click on the case names, you will be linked to a copy of that Opinion.  Here is a shortcut link to that Scorecard--click HERE.

I send thanks to Pittsburgh Attorney Matt Rancunas for forwarding this decision to my attention.

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