Facebook as legal evidence: Allowed or banned in Pa.?

Legal blog Tort Talk has a fascinating list of precedents in the use of Facebook in Pennsylvania court cases that will be continually updated with new cases.

The “Facebook Discovery Scorecard” chronicles which court cases in which counties admitted evidence gleaned by Facebook and which did not, pointing out that there is no consistent statewide law governing this new frontier of litigation. So, watch out – if you find yourself embroiled in a civil case in Jefferson or Northumberland counties, you may want to delete your Facebook page, whereas in Bucks County or in Philadelphia, you may be okay.

In cases argued in the U.S. Federal Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Jefferson County, the court granted requests for reviews of the plaintiffs’ private Facebook pages in order to gather evidence. In Northumberland County, the court allowed Facebook but, in a footnote, said that the site should be proven to have information relevant to the case before it is allowed.

One case in Franklin County allowed the defense to use information from the plaintiff’s Facebook page, but limited access to 21 days, and in another case, the court denied access to the plaintiff’s Facebook page because the defense did not prove that the plaintiff even had a Facebook page or, that if one existed, it would contain relevant evidence.

In a Bucks County personal injury case, the court denied the defense’s attempt to friend request the plaintiff in order to obtain pictures pre- and post-accident because they had already been provided, so it was essentially overkill.

In Luzerne County, access to private Facebook pages was also denied because the plaintiff argued that the defense had ample access to information on public pages of the site, and in Philadelphia, a judge denied a motion to provide access to a plaintiff’s private Facebok pages because the defendant did not first show that the pages would reveal pertinent evidence.

Right now, there are a patchwork of precedents and policies governing the role of social media as evidence in court cases, as the blog’s findings show. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the future.


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