A ski trip with your fiancé results in a great photo of the two of you on a ski covered mountain; obviously, the picture is destined for your Facebook page. This picture may be used for more than to show off your good time and skiing ability, however, if you’re the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. In Scott v. United States Postal Service, which concerns a personal injury suit, a Louisiana District Court recently held that while social media is discoverable, discovery requests involving social media must still be tailored to lead to relevant and admissible evidence.
In Scott, the Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit arising from an automobile accident involving a vehicle driven by a United States Postal Service worker. The Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Discovery based on interrogatories and document requests involving the Plaintiff’s use of social media. The relevant interrogatory asked Plaintiff to identify all social media she has used since the accident. The document request asked Plaintiff to “Produce all postings related to any type of physical or athletic activities from June 6, 2014, to present on all social media websites . . . .” Plaintiff objected to these requests, stating that information sought was immaterial and not reasonably calculated to result in the discovery of admissible evidence.
Defendant responded to the objections stating that it had a good faith basis to believe that Plaintiff posted photographs and other information on social media regarding her activities since the accident, which are relevant to the case. Defendant provided an example of a photograph Plaintiff had posted to her Facebook account showing Plaintiff and her fiancé in ski apparel on a snow covered mountain.
Plaintiff conceded that social media content is discoverable where relevant to a claim or defense in the case, but argued that “Defendant’s request for all of her social media photos is overly broad because it will require the production of a significant amount of irrelevant information.” The Defendant argued, however, that it is only requesting the identification of all social media used by Plaintiff since the accident and postings related to physical or athletic activities after the accident.
The Court found that the discovery requests at issue in this case were overbroad and limited the requests in accordance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 26(b)(1). The Court stated that social media is generally discoverable, but “a request for discovery must still be tailored so that it appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” The Court found that the information and documents requested by Defendant are relevant to the Plaintiff’s claims in the Complaint, which allege serious and disabling physical injuries. The Court stated that Defendant had shown, based on photographs submitted with the motion, that the social media information and postings are relevant to Plaintiff’s claims.
In finding that the document request was overly broad, the Court limited the production to all Plaintiff’s social media postings after the accident that “(1) refer or relate to the physical injuries Plaintiff alleges she sustained as a result of the accident and any treatment she received therefor; or (2) reflect physical capabilities that are inconsistent with the injuries that Plaintiff allegedly suffered as a result of the accident.” Scott demonstrates that while social media postings are discoverable, requests must still follow the Rules of Civil Procedure and filter for information relevant to the particular case.