Saturday, May 6, 2017

Social Media Lawsuit Sabotage?

When David C. Williams Jr. was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama back in 2002, no one in Tuscaloosa had even heard of Facebook. “Posting” was a move in basketball and “Insta” was a prefix used on boxed mashed potatoes or grits..

Fast forward 15 years to 2017, and these terms are synonymous with social media giants Facebook and Instagram.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, there were 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users and 600 million Instagram users. The volume of information posted by users and made available to billions of people is startling. Anything and everything is displayed on these sites for public consumption, i.e. photographs of the kids, the meal you cooked and, of course, duck-faced selfies. “TMI" – the millennial shorthand for “too much information” – is a reality.

Just like every other aspect of life, the litigation business is no stranger to the effects of social media. Cases are built on evidence – i.e., testimony and documentation via business records, photographs and videos. In recent years, litigators, including myself, have been able to use social media as a discovery tool to access data and use that information to our advantage at trial.

Before the days of social media, litigators would go to great lengths to gather information on an individual.

I remember the days of searching for hours through actual court records at the courthouse to find out if someone had ever been arrested. I also hired private investigators to locate and to observe witnesses as a means to gather vital information, a tactic that rarely ever worked.

It is no secret that lawyers gather information about their adversaries to evaluate how they will perform at trial or to use information against them to discredit their testimony.

In today’s world of “swiping right” and brazen over-sharing, gathering personal information is easier, faster and more effective. The simple click of a “friend” or “follow” button on your computer can pull back the curtain and reveal enormous amounts of information people make available.

Many people do not realize that posting information, pictures, or news articles could potentially cost them their case.

For example, if a lawsuit is pending for a person’s neck injuries sustained in a slip and fall at the local grocery store, it is probably not a good idea to post a picture while dancing at the local club or while skiing in Colorado, both of which I have witnessed in cases on which I have worked.

That information, if properly obtained and utilized, is vital to a jury at trial to demonstrate that the plaintiff is not as “injured” as he or she claims.

Guest Authored By David C. Williams Jr. David is a senior attorney at Swift Currie (Birmingham) in the firm’s general litigation group, focusing on catastrophic injury & wrongful death; insurance coverage; premises liability, and trucking litigation.

"Simply put, use discretion when sharing on social media.

With the good comes the bad, and social media is no different.

So, before posting that amazing wall-climbing video for all your “friends” to see, consider how that might impact your pending lawsuit alleging chronic lower back pain.

You might put yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to a jury that the video is just a “#tbt (Throw Back Thursday) to 2012” before the injury occurred.

Good luck convincing the jury of that excuse without a bunch of rolling eyes."

    • Authored by:
      Fred Hansen Pied Piper of Social Media Marketing at & CEO of Millennium 7 Publishing Co. in Loveland, Colorado. I work deep in the trenches of social media strategy, community management and trends.  My interests include; online business educator, social media marketing, new marketing technology, skiing, hunting, fishing and The Rolling Stones..-Not necessarily in that order ;)
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