In a recent trial court opinion from the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County Court, the issue of Facebook discovery was once again addressed in Brogan v. Rosenn et al, No. 08 – CV – 6048 (Lack. Co. April 22, 2013). In this matter, the Plaintiff was seeking the Facebook login name, user name, and password of a deponent witness who happened to be a paralegal in a defendant insurance company’s claims department. According to the opinion another insurance company witness testified that he had communicated via Facebook with that paralegal regarding depositions in the matter. The carrier refused to release the paralegal’s login info, user name, or password. The Plaintiff filed a discovery motion to compel that information.
The trial court holds that in order to obtain discovery of private information on social media sites the seeker of the information must, at the very least, show that the information sought is relevant to the case at hand. One way to establish that predicate is to show that the publicly available information on the site at issue reveals information pertinent to the matter and arguably calls the claims or defenses at issue in the suit into question.
Importantly, the trial court also holds that social media discovery requests must be properly framed and limited so that only relevant and non-privileged information is sought and produced. In this matter, the Court found that the plaintiffs had not established the relevance of the information on the paralegal’s private Facebook pages. Therefore, the demand for the paralegal’s disclosure of the user name and password was overly intrusive and would cause unreasonable embarrassment and burden to the paralegal in violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.
The motion to compel is denied.
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