Court Doesn’t Like Facebook Discovery Demands (NY)

With the increase in popularity of social media websites in recent years, attorneys are increasingly seeking the disclosure of parties’ social media accounts.  Acknowledging this trend, the New York State Appellate Division recently held that any such disclosure requests must be narrowly tailored, seeking only social media account information that relates to the subject of the litigation.

In Kregg v. Maldonado, the plaintiff commenced an action on behalf of her injured son, Christopher, against Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan and American Suzuki Motor Corporation.  Plaintiff alleged that Christopher was injured while riding a motorcycle manufactured and distributed by the Suzuki defendants.  Following initial disclosure, the Suzuki defendants learned that Christopher’s family created several social media accounts, including accounts on Facebook and MySpace.  Christopher’s family members posted on these social media accounts on his behalf.

The Suzuki defendants moved to compel the disclosure of all social media account records maintained by or on Christopher’s behalf.  Plaintiff objected to the disclosure, arguing that the motion was a “fishing expedition.”  The trial court granted the Suzuki defendants’ motion to compel.

But the Appellate Division, Fourth Department found that the discovery demand for the social media records was made without “a factual predicate with respect to the relevancy of the evidence.”  The court held that the proper means for a party “to obtain disclosure of any relevant information contained in the social media accounts is a narrowly-tailored discovery request seeking only that social media-based information that relates to the claimed injuries arising from the accident.”  Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court’s decision, and denied the Suzuki defendants’ motion to compel, but granted the defendants leave to serve a more narrowly tailored disclosure request.

Thanks to Steve Kaye for his contribution to this post.  If you would like more information, please write to mbono@wcmlaw.com