Look at anyone’s social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and what do you see. Photographs of smiling, happy people playing sports, dancing, spending the day at the beach, and all sorts of other recreational activities that we all enjoy. But even if your social media pages are locked so that only your friends and family can access the photographs, a recent Broward County Circuit Court judge held that there is no expectation of privacy on these websites, and all photographs would have to be produced in a slip and fall claim against Target.
The case was brought by Maria and Henry Leon against Target after Mrs. Leon slipped and fell on a liquid substance on the floor of a Broward County Target store. Target’s attorneys requested Mrs. Leon produce all 1,285 photographs that existed on Mrs. Leon’s Facebook page. In addition to her photographs, Target requested Mrs. Leon:
1. Identify all social/professional networking websites that Plaintiff is registered with currently (such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Meetup.com, MyLife, etc.)
2. List the number and service carrier associated with each cellular telephone used by Mrs. Leon and/or registered in her name, including those on a “family” plan, as of the date of her accident.
And, for each social networking site listed, Target requested Mrs. Leon produce copies or screenshots of all photographs taken during the two years prior to her accident, and since her accident.
Target’s requests went even further and asked Mrs. Leon to produce all photographs taken on any of her cellular phones, and for documentation outlining what calls were made or received on the date of the loss. The judge ordered Mrs. Leon to produce ALL of this documentation. The judge stated that there is NO expectation of privacy on these social networking sites, even if they are locked or restricted to your friends and family because there is no expectation that your friends or family would keep your postings or photographs private.
The judge did distinguish this case from another accident injury claim in Fort Lauderdale where a car insurance company requested all “postings, statuses, photos, likes, or videos” that relate to the mother of a child that was injured in a Fort Lauderdale car accident. In that case, the judge limited the information that needed to be produced to only documents that were relevant to the claim. However, the judge did require some of the “statuses” and “postings” to be produced.
The moral of the story is – Do not post anything on the internet that you do not want the entire world to see! If you are making any type of negligence or injury claim – car accident, slip and fall, cruise ship accident, work injury, homeowner property damage claim, or a medical malpractice claim in Florida – photographs and postings on social media that contradict the claim you are making can be obtained by the defendant’s attorneys, and can cause big problems for you and your claim.