It is has become a staple of stand up comics and even commercials that people live on their social media. The old saying has changed from “what’s on his mind is on his mouth” to “what’s he’s done is on Facebook.” Posting every detail of your life can have very negative consequences in lawsuits. By living in a glass house people are giving their adversaries ammunition to win the court case.
Take a moment to look at your Facebook page. What do you see? Pictures of vacations, parties, new cars, children and hanging out with friends and family. Then there are the posts of people expressing their opinions and just discussing what they are doing. I used to say that I could write a person’s biography just by looking at their bank records. Now, all I need is Facebook to write a person’s life story.
The growth of social media has been a rich harvest for attorneys. Why hire a private investigator when the information is readily available on Facebook?
Therefore, it’s not surprising that attorneys are always seeking access to the other side’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts.
Let’s look at some real and practical examples of how this can work. There was one case where the plaintiff was suing for a personal injury. He claimed that as a result of the accident he couldn’t walk without a cane or walker. Surprise, surprise, there were pictures of him on Facebook at a social gathering walking without a cane or other equipment.
Attorneys always tell their clients to keep their mouths shut about a lawsuit. Unfortunately, many people don’t think that applies to their Facebook posts. For example, in another case, the plaintiff made various posts in his social media about the accident, how it happened, the injuries he received and his recovery.
And surprising as it may seem, married people even post damaging pictures of their affairs on-line. Or, while claiming poverty in a child support case people will post pictures of themselves on their brand new boat or on an expensive vacation.
Postings can even lead to lawsuits. There was a mother who lied to her son about his father paying child support. The son put a big sign on the house stating that the father was a deadbeat. The mother took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. Then she and her boyfriend made false comments about the father’s failure to pay support. This resulted in her and the boyfriend getting sued for defamation.
The good news for the people who’ve done the postings is that New York judges do not automatically order access to the social media accounts. The party requesting the information must give proof that the damaging information actually exists. For example, in one personal injury case, the plaintiff claimed that he could no longer play a piano. However, in his public profile picture there he was playing a piano. No surprise that the court ordered access to the Facebook account.
In another case, a defendant using a standard internet search was able to find that the plaintiff had made several posts about the accident and his injuries.
Our advice is to keep your private life private. Posting all your life events on Facebook is akin to letting strangers into your house and allowing them to rummage through your possessions.