Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Western District Magistrate Judge Addressess Facebook Discovery Issues

A Pennsylvania Facebook Discovery decision from last August of 2016 has been brought to my attention.
In the case Hanna v. Giant Eagle, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107253 (W.D.Pa. Aug. 10, 2016 Mitchell, M.J.), a Magistrate Judge in the Western District considered a Defendant's Motion to Compel the production of a Plaintiff's social media information. 

According to the Opinion, the court had ordered Plaintiff to release her social media information to defendants with an Affidavit that her production was all-inclusive.  Plaintiff produced nineteen pages from her social media websites, but failed to include the court-mandated Affidavit. 

The Defendants then filed the Motion to Compel. The Plaintiff then produced the Affidavit and thirty-nine additional pages of new social media entries.  The Plaintiff attested that she provided her attorneys with access to her Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin profiles.  The Plaintiff's attorneys represented to the Court that they reviewed Plaintiff's social media pages and had produced all responsive, discoverable material.

Thereafter, the Defendants requested unfettered access to Plaintiff's social media pages and requested that a third party vendor be permitted review the Plaintiff’s social media pages and provide all relevant material to the parties.  The Defendants also sought sanctions in the form of the dismissal of the action, or fees and costs incurred as a result of having to file the Motion to Compel. 

The Court in Hanna denied the Defendant’s request for the broad third party access and sanctions, relying on the Plaintiff's Affidavit which confirmed that she had provided direct access to the social media pages to her attorneys, and given that Plaintiff's counsel represented to the court that he and his staff reviewed the social media accounts prior to making the production.

As such, some of the Plaintiff’s social media was discoverable, but unrestricted access was denied. 

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Brian J. Murren, a Dickinson Law student and a law clerk with the Camp Hill, PA office of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin for bringing this case to my attention.

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