In the recent decision of Findlay v Qld Folk Federation, the Queensland District Court considered a plaintiff was deliberately dishonest based on the activities disclosed in her Facebook page.
The plaintiff claimed for damages for brain, cervical spine and psychological injuries, after being struck on the head by a stage light stand at the Woodford Folk Festival. Liability was admitted by the defendants, but they claimed the plaintiff suffered only a bruise and scratch to the forehead.
The Court held the blow to the head had a significant, but temporary, effect on the plaintiff. The Court did not accept the plaintiff’s evidence about the effects of the incident reported to the various medical practitioners. The plaintiff’s medical records showed longstanding psychiatric and lumbar spine conditions. The Court found the plaintiff’s pre‑existing psychiatric condition impacted on the reliability and honesty of her evidence. Therefore, the Court favoured contemporaneous records, which were entirely inconsistent with the plaintiff’s evidence at trial.
The Court specifically noted the plaintiff’s Facebook account demonstrated a more sociable and enjoyable existence than admitted in her evidence at trial. In cross-examination, the plaintiff denied posting the photographs or removing the photographs and entries once they had become known to the defendants. The plaintiff blamed her friends and children for entering and deleting the posts, but the Court held the plaintiff’s answers about the operation of her Facebook page by others was deliberately dishonest. This led the Court to conclude that her dishonesty also manifested in her statements to the medical practitioners.
The Court also warned against calling treating psychiatrists and psychologists who may not be seen as dispassionate experts, but instead exhibiting the affinity which can develop between a treating doctor and her patient.
The Court held the claimant had sustained a minor head injury and awarded damages of only $6,000 for general damages and past special damages.