Plaintiff got into a car accident allegedly caused by the driver of a tractor-trailer that was owned by Defendant. Plaintiff sued Defendant for her physical and emotional injuries. During discovery, Defendant requested that Plaintiff produced her entire Facebook account history. Plaintiff objected to the discovery request. Defendant filed a motion to compel the requested discovery.
When determining the appropriate scope of discovery under FRCP Rule 26, courts must consider whether requested information is: 1) privileged; 2) relevant to a claim or defense; and (3) proportional to the needs of the case.
Plaintiff got into a car accident allegedly caused by the driver of a tractor-trailer that was owned by Defendant. Plaintiff sued Defendant for her physical and emotional injuries, including posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. During discovery, Defendant requested that Plaintiff produce her entire Facebook account history. Plaintiff had produced, in response to other interrogatories, any Facebook account history that referenced the accident or her resulting injuries. Plaintiff also produced any results in her account history from several requested keyword searches, including accident, attorney, TGR, posttraumatic stress disorder, and PTSD. Plaintiff objected to Defendant’s request to produce her entire Facebook account history. Defendant filed a motion to compel, seeking a court order requiring Plaintiff to produce an electronic copy of her entire Facebook account history for the two Facebook accounts she has identified. Defendant asserted that Plaintiff‘s Facebook account history is relevant and necessary to its defense of the damages claimed by Plaintiff.
Should the Court grant Defendant’s motion to compel injured Plaintiff to produce an electronic copy of her entire Facebook social media account history?
The Court held that Defendant‘s discovery request was not proportional to the needs of the case. This is because the discovery request was too broad, which would have provided only a small amount of relevant information while exposing substantial irrelevant information. The Court also noted that Defendant’s claim that it would be unable to challenge Plaintiff’s damage claims was exaggerated. Defendant had effectively defended against such emotional distress claims for years and such claims typically made up only a small part of the damages in a physical injury case. Moreover, there is no authority for the proposition that access to social media prior to the date of the accident would significantly contribute to the evaluation and diagnosis of these conditions. For that reason, the Court denied Defendant’s request for social media discovery prior to the date of the accident. However, it also found that Defendant was entitled to information beyond what Plaintiff had produced. Therefore, Defendant‘s motion was granted in part, but the request was limited to any Facebook history after the accident that: (1) related to emotional distress or mental disability, (2) addressed or related to the accident or any of Plaintiff’s physical or emotional injuries (to the extent not already produced), and (3) related to Plaintiff’s activity levels after the accident.