Social media law continues to develop in Pennsylvania with several new cases. For a refresher on the other cases please see my posts here and here. A tip of the hat to Scott Cooper for providing me with copies of two of the opinions.
The newest case finding for access by the defense is Largent v. Reed. In that case relevant information about the Plaintiff was publicly viewable in the social media account.
The newest case finding against access is Arcq v. Fields. That case is a bit different from the others we have seen, because in addition to having a personal account, the plaintiff has a public page for his bar. Keep in mind that accounts are for individuals and pages are for companies or for fans of famous people. Pages are by their nature meant to be public. The page contained information that the defense argued showed the Arcq in a light that was relevant to the case. Arcq argued that the page was mere advertising and not relevant to Arcq himself. The judge agreed with Arcq but also required Arcq to preserve all data currently contained within his accounts.
There is another case which merely denies access without explanation. That is Martin v. Allstate.
The main thing to take from the cases in Pennsylvania so far is that those seeking access to social media accounts need to show that relevant information is viewable in the public portion of the account. I haven’t seen any cases yet in which relevant information is available through other legal means, for example if the plaintiff and defendant were already friends or a third party was willing to share what he has seen in the plaintiff’s account. I imagine such a case will come along soon.
These decisions remind us yet again of several things.
1. It is very important for people who are injured or harmed in some way to avoid discussing it on social media sites.
2. Privacy settings are extremely important and Plaintiff attorneys should make certain that their clients understand how the settings work.
3. Defense counsel should very quickly examine social media accounts of plaintiffs and preserve any information they find.