Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction LLC – Keeping Personal Injury Complaints Off Facebook

It’s perfectly understandable that grief-stricken, frustrated or outraged victims of personal injury, who have been wronged by the negligence of some other party, might take to social media to express those emotions.
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You want affirmation and solace and to not feel so alone.

We get it. However, our Winston-Salem personal injury lawyers would generally advise against it. As it stands now, personal injury defendants will likely be combing through your social media profiles, trolling for any information that could help bolster their case.You might not even realize that what you are posting could have significance to your case. Through the discovery process, opposing counsel might even be allowed to obtain electronic communications you thought would be considered private.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? That’s what the plaintiff in Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction LLC argued and, thankfully, the Florida Court of Appeals sided with her. Still, the best way to avoid these kinds of issues is to refrain from making public posts related to your case.

The Root case stemmed from the serious injury of a 3-year-old boy, who was struck by a hit-and-run vehicle as he and his teenage aunt were walking near a city-owned construction zone.

The boy was reportedly being pulled in a wagon when he jumped out of the wagon and darted into traffic. The driver of the truck that stuck him sped away, dragging him for a time and causing him serious and permanent injuries.

The driver was later arrested and served time in prison.

The boy’s mother subsequently filed a civil personal injury lawsuit on her son’s behalf, alleging that the city, the construction contractor and the subcontractors were negligent for failing to use reasonable care to ensure the construction site was safe for pedestrians.

The defendants are mounting numerous counterclaims in defense, including alleging that the boy was negligently entrusted to a teenager, who failed to properly supervise him, and that the driver was the primary negligent party.

In the course of discovery in the case, the defendants requested copies of postings from the plaintiff’s Facebook account, including any information pertaining to:

  • Any psychological care or counseling the mother received;
  • Any and all postings, photos, statuses or “likes” relating to her relationship with her injured son and her other children before and after the accident, her relationships with other family members and/or significant others, any mental health or stress complaints;
  • Any postings relating to any aspect of the lawsuit.

Clearly, this request was over-broad and far-reaching, and the court recognized that much of this information had little relevance to the case, despite the defense argument that such information goes to disputing the claims of irreparable harm that the plaintiff alleged.

Still, trial courts have repeatedly found that social media evidence is discoverable. The requesting party must prove that the information sought will be relevant to the case and reasonably admissible in court.

The defense here failed to meet that burden, but that certainly doesn’t mean those in other cases won’t. The best way to shield against this is to limit the possible information they’d be able to glean from your profile, postings and even private messages.

Contact our Winston-Salem personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Root v. Balfour Beatty Construction LLC (Fla. Ct. App. Feb. 5, 2014)

More Blog Entries:
NHTSA Launches Major Teen Driving Safety Initiative, Nov. 26, 2014, Winston-Salem Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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