Monday, April 2, 2018

Judge Williamson Orders Production of Plaintiff's Instagram Log-In Information

In the case of Kelter v. Flanagan, No. 286-Civil-2017 (C.P. Monroe Co. Feb. 19, 2018, Williamson, J.), the court granted a Defendant’s Motion to Compel a Plaintiff to provide the Defendant’s counsel with her Instagram account log-in information.   The Order further mandated that the Plaintiff would not remove or delete any content from that account.   Judge Williamson also ordered defense counsel not to share this information with any one not related to the case.  

According to the Opinion, this personal injury action arose out of a  motor vehicle accident.  

Following the deposition of the Plaintiff, the Defendant filed the subject Motion to Compel.   The defense believed that there would be relevant information on the Plaintiff’s Instagram social media account concerning the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries suffered in the accident. 

In his Opinion, Judge Williamson noted that the use of a party’s social networking account information and litigation are becoming more frequent, even though there is limited case authority on the issues presented.  

The court confirmed that, as has been held before in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas and within other trial courts, social networking accounts can be discoverable if it appears likely that the accounts contain information that could be relevant.  

Judge Williamson noted that “[a]rguably, there does not even appear to be an expectation of privacy on social media as it relates to litigation because the account holder is sharing information with others in a public or quasi-public domain.”   See Op. at p. 2 [citations omitted].  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff initially testified at her deposition that she did not maintain any social media accounts. When confronted with proof to the contrary, the Plaintiff admitted that she maintained an Instagram account and asserted that she had misunderstood the question presented.  

Defense counsel then reviewed posts from the Plaintiff’s Instagram account from the time period shortly after the accident that were available for public access on the Plaintiff’s Instagram account.  According to the Opinion, those posts seem to indicate that the Plaintiff was engaged in vigorous physical activity both before and after the accident, such as references to shoveling snow and going to the gym.  

When the Plaintiff declined to provide any additional Instagram account information, the defense filed this Motion to Compel, which, as noted, the court granted.  

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

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