In the most recent decision to come out of Pennsylvania regarding the discoverability of social media, a Philadelphia judge denied a defendant’s request to gain access to a plaintiff’s Facebook page.
In Martin v. Allstate Fire and Casualty Co., Case No. 110402438 (C.P. Phila. Dec. 13, 2011), the plaintiff, a pedestrian, was hit by a vehicle driven by a third-party tortfeasor. The plaintiff collected the policy limit from the third-party’s insurer and then demanded the Uninsured Motorist coverage from her own insurer, the defendant. During her deposition in October, defense counsel asked the plaintiff if she used Facebook, to which she responded that she did. Upon asking for her password, defense counsel was met with an immediate objection. In return, defense counsel filed a Motion to Compel such information. Counsel for the plaintiff responded in opposition, arguing that any information on the plaintiff’s Facebook is not relevant to her claims or injuries and does not contradict her claims. In a one-page, single-line Order, Judge Manfredi agreed and denied defendant’s Motion.
This decision follows a November ruling from Judge Walsh, who determined that information posted on the plaintiff’s Facebook page was relevant and not privileged, and therefore discoverable. See Largent v. Reed, Case No. 2009-1823 (C.P. Franklin Nov. 8, 2011); see also www.ediscoverylawreview.com/2011/12/articles/opinions/post-at-your-own-risk-pennsylvania-court-permits-discovery-of-information-on-personal-facebook-profile/. Largent, along with two other defense-friendly decisions, Zimmerman v. Weis Markets Inc., Case No. CV-09-1535 (C.P. Northumberland May 19, 2011) and McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway Inc., Case No. 113-2010CD (C.P. Jefferson Sept. 9, 2010) got the defense bar out to a 3-0 lead on the discoverability of information posted on Facebook. While the Martin decision scores a big point for plaintiffs, it demonstrates that there is still a lot of uncertainty in the law surrounding the recent phenomenon of social media and its relevance to civil litigation.