Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Facebook Discovery Decision Out of Washington County




In her Opinion and Order from back on March 26, 2013 in the case of Prescott v. Willis, No. 2012-Civil-2207 (C.P. Wash. Co. Mar. 3, 2013 O’Dell-Seneca, P.J.), President Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca addressed a Defendant’s Motion to Compel a Plaintiff to produce her Facebook username and password in a motor vehicle accident case.  

After reviewing the pertinent law available at that time, the court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.  

In the Opinion, the court noted that, in support of its motion, the Defendant supplied five (5) photographs from the public portion of the Plaintiff’s profile showing the Plaintiff engaging in activities which were inconsistent with the injuries alleged.   The Defendants asserted that the private portions of the Facebook account were likely to contain other such photographs. 

The Court ruled that there was no privileged protecting the Plaintiff from the production of such photos and, in the case presented, the photos in the private area of the Plaintiff’s Facebook profile were deemed to be “reasonably calculated” to produce relevant evidence based upon what was revealed in the public portions of the profile.  

As such, the Plaintiffs were ordered to produce their username and password and the Defendants were granted seven (7) days to review the private pages of that Facebook page but were strictly prohibited from adding, creating, removing, modifying, or sending any contents from that page.  

The court also ruled that, after seven (7) days, the Plaintiff was permitted to change her username and password to preclude further access.  

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Kenneth T. Newman of the Pittsburgh office of the Thomas, Thomas & Hafer law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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