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Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of Plaintiff’s Entire Facebook Account History

By: Jamison McCune

In Gordon v. T.G.R. Logistics, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72978 (D. Wyo. May 10, 2017), a federal court refused to order the production of a plaintiff’s entire Facebook account history. The decision is significant because it discusses the scope of social media discovery under the recently amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Gordon plaintiff was injured in a trucking accident and filed suit against the defendant trucking company. The plaintiff alleged numerous physical injuries as a result of the accident. The plaintiff also alleged traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

The defendant trucking company served a request for production asking the plaintiff to download her entire Facebook account history using the “Download Your Info” feature. The plaintiff responded by producing posts that referenced the accident or her alleged injuries. The plaintiff also did a keyword search of her Facebook account for words such as “accident,” “attorney,” and “brain injury.” The plaintiff objected to producing the remainder of her Facebook account history on the grounds that the defendant’s request exceeded the scope of discovery. Unsatisfied, the defendant moved to compel production of the plaintiff’s entire Facebook account history.

The court denied the defendant’s motion, even though the plaintiff could download her entire Facebook account history with just a few mouse clicks. The court reasoned that the production of such vast information could generate additional discovery and adversely affect trial testimony. In particular, the plaintiff could be forced to explain every single statement contained in her lengthy Facebook history where she showed some degree of emotion—no matter how personal or embarrassing. The court concluded that the discovery request was not proportional to the needs of the case. The court did order, however, the production of any Facebook posts relating to the accident, the plaintiff’s alleged injuries, and the plaintiff’s activity levels after the accident.

The Gordon decision is in accord with other decisions across the country. Social media discovery requests cannot be open-ended, and they must be relevant to a party’s claims or defenses. This is true even if a plaintiff in a personal injury action alleges a laundry list of afflictions. Social media posts before an incident may also be discoverable, but defense counsel should be prepared to articulate how pre-incident posts are significant to the case.