Court Ordered Reactivation Of Facebook Profile

When Can A Party Access Private Facebook Posts From A Previously Deleted Account?

This action arose after a truck driver’s alleged negligence resulted in a fatal motorcycle accident.

Plaintiff, as widow and “tutrix” of the deceased’s minor child, sought the truck-driver Defendant’s social media information through discovery and limited her request to four months following the date of the accident. 

The interrogatory at issue asked whether Defendant has social media accounts and to provide the username and password to each. The request for production at issue asked for a downloaded file of Defendant’s Facebook page. In response, Defendant stated that his Facebook account had been hacked and that he had contacted Facebook to request that his account be closed.

Apparently, the court believed Defendant’s story. While the court declined to require Defendant to share his log-in or password information with plaintiff, it crafted a method of production thought to be well-tailored and appropriate for this case. Despite stating “[a] party is no more entitled to such unfettered access to an opponent’s social networking communications than it is to rummage through the desk drawers and closets in his opponent’s home,” the court ordered Defendant to communicate with Facebook to reestablish his account and request entries for the period ending four months after the accident.

Under the assumption that this communication with Facebook would be successful, the court next directed that Defendant’s Facebook postings be made available to Defendant’s counsel and that they be reviewed by Defendant’s counsel (not Defendant himself) to determine whether the postings fit into one or more of the categories of documents requested. It remains unclear the amount of time which had lapsed since Defendant’s account had been deleted and why the court readily assumed the account could easily be restored. Down by the bayou, when an individual faces allegations of negligent driving which resulted in death, the content of his/her private Facebook profiles are likely not shielded from discovery, even if the account was hacked and subsequently closed, as long as access to be provided is not unfettered.

Lawsuit Exposer, a Seton Hall University School of Law student (Class of 2016), focuses his studies in the area of NJ foreclosure defense.

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