In a personal injury lawsuit involving an allegedly defective desk chair, a Suffolk County, New York, trial court has reportedly ordered the plaintiff to give the defendant manufacturer authorization to access the private postings on her social networking sites. Romano v. Steelcase, Inc., No. 2006-2333 (Suffolk County S. Ct., filing date n/a). Plaintiff Kathleen Romano has apparently alleged that she fell off the chair and herniated several discs, effectively confining her to her house and bed. According to a news source, the defendant has countered that the public portions of her Facebook® and MySpace® profiles include pictures revealing that she is pursuing an active lifestyle “and can travel and apparently engages in many other physical activities inconsistent with her claims in this litigation.”
Romano argued that the defendant’s request for discovery relating to the private sections of her social media sites amounted to a “blatant attempt by defendant to intimidate and harass” her and would give access to wholly irrelevant and extremely private information. The court disagreed, noting, “Plaintiffs who place their physical condition in controversy, may not shield disclosure material which is necessary to the defense of the action.” The court also observed that the popular social networks warn users that their profiles are public forums and that they post content at their “own risk.” He reportedly wrote, “Thus, when Plaintiff created her Facebook and MySpace accounts, she consented to the fact that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings. Indeed, that is the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites or they would cease to exist.” Romano is considering filing an appeal. See Law.com, September 24, 2010.