eDiscovery Daily Blog

Plaintiff Needs More Than “Mere Hope” to Discover Defendant’s Personal Info – eDiscovery Case Law

We’ve seen several cases where social media or personal data was requested – with some requests granted (including this one, this one, this one, this one and this one) and other requests denied (including this one, this one, this one and this one).  Here is another recent case where the request was denied.

In Salvato v. Miley, No. 5:12-CV-635-Oc-10PRL (M.D. Fla. June 11, 2013), a wrongful death action, Florida Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant’s responses to discovery requests “based on Plaintiff’s very limited showing as to the relevance of the requested discovery and the broadly drafted discovery requests”.

In this case, the plaintiff sued two police officers for causing their son’s death by using excessive force and failing to provide medical treatment. During discovery, the plaintiff filed a motion to compel one officer’s responses to the discovery requests. The interrogatories in question sought information about the defendant’s cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, social media accounts, and list-serve or message board membership. The contested requests for production sought cell phone records, including all text messages; e-mails; social media messages and other communications; and comments made on websites or message boards that related to the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant objected, arguing that the requests sought confidential information and invaded his privacy, sought irrelevant information and amounted to a fishing expedition, and were intended to annoy, embarrass, and oppress him.

Judge Lammens found the plaintiff “failed to make a threshold showing that the requested information is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” The plaintiff’s argument in support of the relevancy of the requests was that they seek “‘information about statements that Defendant Brown made about the incident at issue in this case, which could include admissions against interest, and could certainly lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.’” Judge Lammens ruled that the “mere hope” that the texts, e-mails, and other communications might contain an admission is not enough to allow the plaintiff “open access to [the defendant’s] private communications with third parties.” Accordingly, the judge rejected the plaintiff’s attempt “to conduct ‘a fishing expedition’” because he did “‘not have a generalized right to rummage at will through information that Plaintiff has limited from public view.’”

So, what do you think?  Should the motion to compel have been granted?   Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case Summary Source: Applied Discovery (free subscription required).  For eDiscovery news and best practices, check out the Applied Discovery Blog here.

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