In today’s society, social media is a staple for communication. Like it or not, people can learn a lot about someone else by what they post on social media sites. The law is quickly recognizing the impact of social media on cases before the court.
But, what someone posts on social media sites may or may not be admissible in court. In order for evidence to be admissible, under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.280(b)(1), the party seeking discovery must establish that it is (1) relevant to the case’s subject matter, and (2) admissible in court or reasonably calculated to lead to evidence that is admissible in court. In Root v. Balfour Beatty Const. LLC, 132 So.3d 867 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014), the Court noted that trial courts around the country have repeatedly determined that social media evidence is discoverable. See Christopher B. Hopkins & Tracy T. Segal, Discovery of Facebook Content in Fla. Cases, 31 No. 2 Trial Advoc. Q. 14, 14 (Spring 2012). However, in Root, a parent filed a lawsuit against a city, contractors, and construction companies after her son, Gage, was injured at a construction site. In response, the Defendants sought the following information from Root:
1. Any and all postings, statuses, photos, “likes” or videos related to Tonia Root’s
a. Relationships with Gage or her other children, both prior to, and following, the accident;
b. Relationships with other family members, boyfriends, husbands, and/or significant others, both prior to, and following the accident;
c. Mental health, stress complaints, alcohol use or other substance use, both prior to and after, the accident;
d. Facebook account postings relating to any lawsuit filed after the accident by Tonia Root or others[.]
The Court noted that the discovery relates to Root’s past and present personal relationships with all her children, other family members, and significant others; Root’s past and present mental health, stress complaints, and use of alcohol or other substances; and lawsuits of any nature filed by Root or others after the accident. Id. at 870.
The Court held that, the scope of the discovery compelled in the foregoing requests, regarding Root’s relationships with her entire family and significant others, her mental health history, her substance use history, and her litigation history appears to be the type of carte blanche discovery the supreme court sought to guard against in Langston. See Russell v. Stardust Cruisers, Inc., 690 So.2d 743, 745 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997) (observing that while an individual’s health, life expectancy, and habits are at issue and broad discovery is allowed, a court must still determine which records would be relevant and the court should take protective measures, such as an in camera inspection, to prevent disclosure of irrelevant matters. Id. The Court did state that if developments in the litigation suggest that the requested information may be discoverable, the trial court may have to review the material in camera and fashion appropriate limits and protections regarding the discovery. Id. at 871.
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