NY Court Rules Social Networking Sites are Discoverable

September 30, 2010


A printable version of this alert can be found here.

A New York trial court in Suffolk County recently granted a defendant in a personal injury action access to data on a plaintiff’s current and historical Facebook and MySpace accounts, including all deleted information.

In Romano v. Steelcase, Inc., 2006-2233, NYLJ 1202474239237, at *1, Supreme Court, Suffolk County, IAS Part XXI, Sept 21, 2010, the defendant sought this data on the basis that the information on these social networking sites was believed to be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s claimed injuries and, in particular, her claim for loss of enjoyment of life. The court observed that the plaintiff’s public profile on Facebook showed her smiling happily in a photograph outside the confines of her home despite her claim that she is largely confined to her home and bed.

In light of the fact that the public portion of the plaintiff’s social networking sites contained material contrary to her claims, the court concluded that there was a reasonable likelihood that the private portions of her site may contain further evidence material to the defense of the case.

The court noted that “to permit a party claiming very substantial damages for loss of enjoyment of life to hide behind self-set privacy controls on a website, the primary purpose of which is to enable people to share information about how they lead their social lives, risks depriving the opposite party of access to material that may be relevant to ensuring a fair trial.” Thus, the court ordered the plaintiff to provide the defendant with a properly executed authorization to serve on the operators of Facebook and MySpace for the defendant to gain access to the plaintiff’s account data.

Please contact Charles Deluca at 203-357-9200 or cdeluca [at] ryandelucalaw [dot] com if you would like a copy of this decision.