Monday, July 9, 2012

PA Judge Provides Social Media Discovery Rundown

In Trail v. Lesko (opinion here), Allegheny County Judge Wettick provided a great resource for anyone researching social media discovery issues. Judge Wettick authored a 20-page opinion, running through nine Pennsylvania state court decisions addressing discovery of social media in litigation:
[The Pennsylvania] Courts of Common Pleas that have considered discovery requests for Facebook information appear to follow a consistent train of reasoning. The courts recognize the need for a threshold showing of relevance prior to discovery of any kind, and have nearly all required a party seeking discovery in these cases to articulate some facts that suggest relevant information may be contained within the non-public portions of the profile. To this end, the courts have relied on information contained in the publicly available portions of a user's profile to form a basis for further discovery.
The opinion also covered other jurisdictions, including Michigan, Nevada, Indiana, Kansas, and New York. The Judge noted that "[u]nlike our Common Pleas Court cases . . . other jurisdictions have wrestled to establish a middle ground between the wholesale denial of the request on the one hand and the granting of unlimited access to the user's profile on the other."

So, what about Trail itself? Well, that's the funny thing . . . after the extensive rundown of cases, the issues in Trail are no-brainers with only brief analysis. Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery of the defendant's Facebook account was denied. The defendant had already conceded liability and admitted to driving with a .226% blood alcohol level (that's pretty drunk, FYI). So, what good would Facebook discovery do?

Defendant also had a motion to compel discovery of Plaintiff's Facebook account. This was likewise denied. The only support for the request was two undated photos that were not inconsistent with the plaintiff's injuries.

The analysis here probably doesn't break any new ground, but the opinion is still a great resource because of its in-depth look at existing case law in the area of social media discovery.

Image: Facebook logo used in commentary on Facebook.