Here’s a court decision that you may not “like.” In Nucci v. Target Corp.,40 FLW D166a (Fla. 4th DCA 2015), the Fourth District Court of Appeals found that your Facebook privacy settings will not shield you from having to disclose photos and other information that you post. While this case involves a slip and fall, and we here at Mitchell Law mainly handle car accident cases, it is applicable to all personal injury cases.
Facebook is a big deal. Worldwide, there are over 1.39 billion monthly active Facebook users. Approximately 4.5 billion likes are generated daily as of May 2013. Almost 890 million people log onto Facebook daily. Photo uploads total 300 million per day. Every 60 seconds on Facebook; 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded.
Personal injury lawyers and their clients need to be aware of potential pitfalls when it comes to social media. The plaintiff in Nucci claimed that she was injured in a slip and fall at a Target store. Target’s lawyer viewed Ms. Nucci’s Facebook page and noticed it contained 1,285 photos. When Target’s lawyer looked at Ms. Nucci’s Facebook page two days later there were only 1,249 photos.
Target moved to compel inspection of her Facebook page and to prohibit her from destroying any further information that she had posted. In response Ms. Nucci argued that, since its creation, her Facebook page had been on a privacy setting that prevented the general public from having access to her account. She claimed that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the information that she posted.
The court explained that before a right of privacy attaches, there must be a legitimate expectation of privacy. Even if you put your privacy settings on “private” it does not mean you have a legitimate expectation of privacy for that information. The court reasoned that, even if the page is set on private, the information that one shares may be copied and disseminated to another. For example, your Facebook friends can show posts to whoever they want.
Lawyers need to be aware of the ethical issues this case presents. For example a lawyer got suspended for telling his client to “clean up his Facebook page.” Personal injury clients need to be careful about taking photos and posting them on their social networking sites.