Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Addresses Parameters of Discovery of Cell Phone Information

In his recent decision in the case of Reilly v. Lanzerotti, PICS Case No. 15-1150 (C.P. Monroe Co. May 20, 2015 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas granted the Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel a Defendant to execute an authorization for release of cell phone records in a motor vehicle accident case.

According to a summary of the Opinion, in this motor vehicle personal injury matter, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant was operating his vehicle in an negligent manner when he crossed the center line and struck the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The Plaintiff also made a claim for punitive damages on the basis that the Defendant was allegedly driving drunk at the time of the accident.

The Plaintiff requested a signed authorization to secure the Defendant’s cell phone records for the date of the accident.  The Plaintiff argued that the cell phone records were necessary to track the Defendant’s whereabouts that day in conjunction with allegedly being intoxicated, as well as to obtain information regarding people he may have spoken to on the day of the accident who may have relevant information.

The defense argued that the cell phone information would only be relevant to show whether or not the Defendant was talking on the phone at the time of the accident. Accordingly, the Defendant contended that only the records for the day of the accident, with the times of the calls showing, but all of the phone numbers being redacted, was relevant and discoverable.

Judge David Williamson
While the Judge Williamson acknowledged the Defendant’s claim of a general right to privacy regarding his cell phone records, the court found that the relevant information, and also information that would possibly leading to the discovery of other relevant information, that may be generated by the release of the full cell phone records for the day of the accident outweighed the privacy concerns.

As such, the court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel the execution of the authorization for the release of the cell phone records. Judge Williamson further ordered that neither the Plaintiff nor his counsel could release the records to anyone else other than the Defendant or Defendant’s counsel. The court also ordered that the Plaintiff only utilize the cell phone information in the course of the subject litigation.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may contact the Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly by calling 1-800-276-7427 and providing the PICS Case No. noted above and pay a small fee.

Source: "Digest of Recent Opinions" Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 28, 2015).

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