The Growing Intersection of Social Media and the Law
June 22, 2018
The refrain regarding the public nature of social media posts is ubiquitous, as are the endless examples in the news and media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform, even the most seemingly innocuous post can have an impact. The same is true in civil litigation.
Although a still evolving area of law, the case of Nucci v. Target Corp., 162 So. 3d 146, 152 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) provides just one example of this. The case involved a personal injury action against Target. Target sought to obtain photographs from the Plaintiff’s Facebook account which it alleged were relevant to her physical condition. The Plaintiff’s attorney contended, in part, that because of the privacy settings on the Plaintiff’s Facebook page, she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In Nucci, the Court held that the Plaintiff had to provide all of her social media photos for two years prior to the accident to the present date. In so doing, the Court rather artfully illustrated its reasoning:
“In a personal injury case where the plaintiff is seeking intangible damages, the fact-finder is required to examine the quality of the plaintiff's life before and after the accident to determine the extent of the loss. From testimony alone, it is often difficult for the fact-finder to grasp what a plaintiff's life was like prior to an accident. It would take a great novelist, a Tolstoy, a Dickens, or a Hemingway, to use words to summarize the totality of a prior life. If a photograph is worth a thousand words, there is no better portrayal of what an individual's life was like than those photographs the individual has chosen to share through social media before the occurrence of an accident causing injury. Such photographs are the equivalent of a 'day in the life' slide show produced by the plaintiff before the existence of any motive to manipulate reality.” Nucci v. Target Corp., 162 So. 3d 146, 152 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).
The impact of social media does not stop there. The Tampa Bay Times recently delved into the story of a local man who was placed in jail for contempt after “liking” a Facebook post. The full story, which includes additional insight and information on the evolving intersection of social media and the law, is linked here.
In short, one need hardly be a public figure to have his or her social media activity subject to scrutiny, nor is such activity limited only to pictures and statements. As the Court in Nucci stated, “the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites . . . ” involves the acknowledgement that one’s personal information will be shared with others.
Dreyfus Harrison, P.A. is a full service Civil Litigation Law Firm in Clearwater, Florida that has been serving the Tampa Bay area for over 30 years. Our areas of practice include Divorce & Family Law, Personal Injury, Estate Planning & Probate Litigation, Civil Litigation, and Business & Corporate Law. To schedule a consultation, please call our office at (727) 442-1144.