Friday, May 24, 2013

PA Judge Orders Expert Review of Facebook Page - COTW #144

Pennsylvania has had a number of Facebook discovery cases in the past couple of years. However, a recent decision out of Lancaster County took a slightly different approach.

The discovery dispute arose over Facebook photos (and video) allegedly showing a personal injury plaintiff frolicking in the snow. Per the order:
1. Within seven (7) days of the date of this order, the parties are to agree upon a neutral forensic computer expert to conduct an examination of the relevant material on Plaintiffs' computer.
2. The expert is to be given Plaintiffs' user name and password information in order to access the private portion of Plaintiffs' Facebook social networking account and to download the contents of the Facebook account to the hard drive. The expert is to copy the hard drive and isolate the data for the period January 27, 2010, through February 13, 2010.
3. For the period January 27, 2010, through February 13, 2010, the expert is to identify all photographs of snow and references to snow in any emails and any photographs of Plaintiff, Grace Perrone, engaged in any physical activity.
4. Copies of the files identified in item 3 are to be provided to counsel.
5. This discovery is to be completed within sixty (60) days of the date of this order.
6. The cost of this process including the expert's fees, is to be borne by Defendants.
In short, the Pennsylvania judge ordered third-party expert review of the contents of the Facebook page. I like the balance of allowing the opposing party to probe for relevant information, while not giving them unfettered access to the Facebook profile.

I'm a little concerned, however, about the cost. Although I guess it serves as a deterrent to avoid Facebook fishing expeditions as the discovery-seeking party (at least in this case) bears that expense.

HT to fellow Pennsylvania attorney, Dan Cummins of Tort Talk fame - Novel Facebook Discovery Order Out of Lancaster County.