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Court Orders Plaintiff to Perform a “Download Your Info” From Facebook: eDiscovery Case Law

In Rhone v. Schneider Nat’l Carriers, Inc., No. 4:15-cv-01096-NCC, (E.D. Mo. Apr. 21, 2016), Missouri Magistrate Judge Noelle C. Collins ordered the plaintiff to disclose a complete list of her social media accounts to the defendant and also provide a “Download Your Info” report from her Facebook account from June 2, 2014 to the present within fourteen days and ordered the defendant to disclose to the plaintiff any and all posts, photos or other media from the report it intends to use in support of its defense.

Case Background

In this case, the plaintiff asserted that she sustained “severe physical injuries” as a result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on June 2, 2014, when the vehicle driven by Third Party Defendant Charles Quinn, in which the plaintiff was a passenger, was struck from behind by Defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc.’s (“Schneider”) vehicle driven by Defendant Dean Lilly.  The defendant requested production of any social media postings, photographs and/or videos posted by the plaintiff to any social media accounts since the date of the accident; in turn, the plaintiff objected and did not acknowledge the existence of any social media accounts.

However, according to Defendant Schneider, its own independent investigation uncovered that the plaintiff did have a Facebook account and may have also had a LinkedIn account and the information uncovered included “relevant information; specifically, comments and photos regarding physical activity such as dancing”.  The plaintiff initially objected to the defendant’s request for social media information as irrelevant, then provided a supplemental answer to the defendant’s request to indicate that no social media information was “related to this incident”.

As a result, the defendant requested that the plaintiff be required to provide a “Download Your Info” report from her Facebook account from the date of the accident, June 2, 2014, to the present. In the alternative, in the event the account or other social media content has been deleted, the defendant requested sanctions in the form of dismissal of the action with prejudice and attorney’s fees.  In response, the plaintiff indicated that the defendant had “failed to show that any evidence, whether relevant or irrelevant, has been deleted” and that the motion was moot as the defendant had already accessed the plaintiff’s Facebook account and printed at least 264 pages of Facebook postings; the defendant countered that sanctions are warranted because, although the plaintiff claimed not to have deleted any posts, its January 2016 download from the plaintiff’s Facebook account produced 441 pages of material whereas the same method in March 2016 retrieved only 226 pages of material.

Judge’s Ruling

In light of the information available, Judge Collins found that “Plaintiff has not fully and completely responded to Schneider’s production requests, even in light of her objections. Plaintiff did not initially disclose the existence of any social media accounts. However, Plaintiff does not deny that the Facebook account in question belongs to her. Furthermore, there is some indication that Plaintiff may have other social media accounts.  Accordingly, Plaintiff shall disclose to Schneider a complete list of Plaintiff’s social media accounts during the requested time periods.”

Judge Collins also ruled that “Plaintiff is directed to provide a ‘Download Your Info’ report from her Facebook account from the date of the accident, June 2, 2014 to the present. Plaintiff and Schneider shall consult regarding the process and the most effective means of disclosing this information. Thereafter, Schneider shall produce to Plaintiff, from this download, any and all posts, photographs, videos or other material that it intends to rely on for its case. However, the Court finds that, at this time, sanctions are unwarranted. Not only is it unclear whether Plaintiff has deleted any information, such a download from Facebook may afford Plaintiff the ability to recover any, even innocuous, information that may have been deleted.”

So, what do you think?  Should the court have required the plaintiff to download the info from her Facebook account?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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