NY Court Allows Facebook and MySpace Data as Evidence

October 22, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The New York Supreme Court in Suffolk County has granted an office chair maker’s motion to use a worker’s Facebook and MySpace account information as evidence her office chair injury was not as severe as she claimed.

In its opinion the court said production of Kathleen Romano’s entries on her Facebook and MySpace accounts would not violate her right to privacy, and any such concerns are outweighed by the defendant’s need for the information. “The information sought by Defendant regarding Plaintiff’s Facebook and MySpace accounts is both material and necessary to the defense of this action and/or could lead to admissible evidence,” Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner wrote.   

Spinner said plaintiffs who place their physical condition in controversy, may not shield from disclosure material which is necessary to the defense of the action, and in an action seeking damages for personal injuries, discovery is generally permitted with respect to materials that may be relevant both to the issue of damages and the extent of a plaintiffs injury, including a plaintiffs claim for loss of enjoyment of life. 

Spinner reasoned that since the public portion of Romano’s social networking sites contain material that is contrary to her claims, it is likely that the private portions of her sites may contain further evidence such as information with regard to her activities and enjoyment of life. “Preventing Defendant from accessing to Plaintiffs private postings on Facebook and MySpace would be in direct contravention to the liberal disclosure policy in New York State,” Spinner wrote.  

Romano claimed she fell off her office chair and as a result suffered permanent injuries and is largely confined to her house and bed. According to the opinion, Steelcase Inc. contended that a review of the public portions of Romano’s MySpace and Facebook pages reveals that she has an active lifestyle and has traveled to Florida and Pennsylvania during the time period she claims that her injuries prohibited such activity.  

The court opinion is here 

In July, a federal judge agreed to allow a Florida-based self-storage company being sued for sexual harassment to have copies of two female plaintiffs’ postings on the Facebook and MySpace social networking Web sites (see Court Allows Use of Facebook, MySpace Communications).