Now, private becomes public, at least for Facebook. Recently, New York state’s highest court ruled on that Facebook users might be required to turn over photos and other information that is relevant to litigation, even if being under the aegis of “privacy” settings.
To look back, in a case that involved a horse, a fall, and a Long Island park, the Court of Appeals gave the verdict that social media material is akin to, the various information kept in a file cabinet and should be relevant to litigants if relevant.
Now, in a 7-0 opinion, the court regarded that limiting access only to a person’s public posts on Facebook runs counter to New York’s historically liberal rules of discovery in a trial.
Writing for the court, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore favored the Facebook information to records in a medical lawsuit. A patient might consider some of her files private, but if she commences a lawsuit, then she might have to turn over all the private files that are related to the case.
This decision involved a serious spill at Southaven County Park in 2011. Kelly Forman, reportedly a Manhattan interior decorator, sued the horse’s owner, Mark Hankin after she fell while riding.
According to court documents, Forman claimed that the strap attaching the stirrup to the saddle broke, causing her fall. She then claimed that she had suffered traumatic brain damage that caused cognitive deficits, memory loss, difficulty in communicating and social isolation.
To this, Hankin’s attorneys asked for the access to Forman’s Facebook account, arguing that the records were necessary to evaluate her injuries and credibility.
However, a trial court granted Hankin access to some nonpublic portions of Forman’s Facebook account, including photographs she posted before and after the accident. The midlevel Appellate Division said that went too far and that Forman only had to share photos and messages she planned to use at trial.
To this photo request, she added that this request was, “was reasonably calculated to yield evidence relevant to plaintiff’s assertion that she could no longer engage in the activities she enjoyed before the accident and that she had become reclusive”.
Lastly, the lawyers from both the sides have been found unavailable for any kind of response.