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Social Media Users Beware - Your Posts May be Discoverable in Court

Many social media users are well aware of the perils of oversharing on the internet. Employers and college recruiters scour Facebook and Twitter for potentially compromising information about job applicants. Now an additional deterrent may cause people to think twice before posting disparaging comments or inappropriate photos on their pages: the information may be discoverable in court. Last November, a judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County entered an order in a medical negligence case granting the defendants access to information Plaintiff posted on social networking sites.

In 2007, Shelly Beswick (“Beswick”) filed a complaint against Northwest Medical Center, Inc. (“Northwest”), alleging that medical negligence. Northwest sent Beswick sets of interrogatories requesting the username and password for any and all of her social media accounts. Beswick objected to the interrogatories on the grounds that they were overbroad, burdensome , not reasonably related to the discovery of admissible evidence, and violative of her privacy rights. The defendants subsequently sought an order compelling the plaintiff to respond to the interrogatory and to execute an authorization to obtain social media information.

Noting that Beswick did not provide any case law supporting her position that allowing access to her Facebook account violated her privacy rights, the Court found her argument lacked merit. The Court opined that the primary purpose of Facebook was to share information that may be copied and disseminated by other people, and that the expectation of privacy was therefore meaningless. In addition, the Court concluded that the information Northwest sought to obtain on Beswick’s Facebook page was relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Finally, the Court found that the discovery requests were not overbroad or burdensome.

In coming to the conclusion that access to social media sites does not violate privacy rights, the Court cited decisions from other states. Although the issue has not been heavily litigated in Florida, the notable trend in courts across the country is that litigants cannot bar access to information they disseminate on social media websites.

Categories: Litigation
Tags: Daniel L. AbbottJamie A. ColeEdward G. GuedesMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaDiscoveryEvidenceFort Lauderdale Business Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Business Litigation LawyersMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Commercial Litigation LawyerSouth Florida Commercial Litigation AttorneySouth Florida Commercial Litigation LawyerMatthew H. MandelFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsFort Lauderdale Constitutional Law AttorneysMiami Constitutional Law AttorneysSouth Florida Constitutional Law AttorneysFlorida Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Civil Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Litigation AttorneyNegligence
Author(s): Brooke P. Dolara