June 3, 2016

How does social media impact your lawsuit?

Social media is still a fairly recent phenomenon, and trial courts all over the country are still attempting to figure out how to properly handle it. To give you an idea of the scope of the issue, here are some numbers: it is estimated that 73% of all internet users are also active on social media. Those in the 18-29 age group are more active than any other age group, and about 89% of them actively use social media. Those on social media have a habit of sharing newsworthy happenings of their life on their social media accounts. So how does social media impact your lawsuit?

The legal dangers of social media

If you’re involved in a lawsuit, your major concern regarding social media should be regarding confidentiality. It’s generally recommended that those involved in lawsuits, no matter how small, do not post about any case or any related matters. You should also ensure that your privacy settings are restricted.

This is important because the person or entity that you’re suing will be on the hunt for anything that can be used against you. If you post something on media, even if it seems harmless, it could be used against you in a court of law. There are plenty of resources out there to make a case against you, don’t help them!

What if you already posted something?

However, if you posted something online that relates in any way to your claim, it is of utmost importance that you do not alter or delete it. This means anything that could be related to your case in any way, no matter your privacy settings. For example, if you are involved in a personal injury claim, and you’ve made posts about the accident, treatment, injuries, etc., don’t touch them.

As is commonly known, nothing on the internet is ever really deleted. We see this often when celebrities and sports figures post something less than ideal, realize what they’ve posted too late, try to delete it, but still end up on the covers of magazines. If you attempt to alter or delete what you’ve already posted, it may be perceived as you trying to cover something up, which makes your situation even worse. Therefore, if it’s already online, leave it alone!

The same goes for your friends, family members, or anyone else who may be involved with the case in any way: if they post something on your behalf, about you, or about the situation in general, it may be used against you. Keep your claim off the internet!

For example: Snay v. Gulliver

How does social media impact your lawsuit? We can all learn a lesson from a 2011 settlement that went awry from a simple Facebook post. In Snay v. Gulliver, the former head of a private preparatory school sued his employer when his contract was not renewed. Snay believed he was the victim of ageism. He won the case, as well as $10,000 back pay, $60,000 to Snay’s attorneys, and an $80,000 settlement.

Snay had signed a confidentiality agreement stating that he would not discuss the case with anyone outside his wife, attorneys, and other professional advisers. Unfortunately, when Snay informed his daughter on the outcome of the lawsuit (who was also a student at Gulliver Schools), she posted the results on Facebook, boasting to her friends that Gulliver Schools was paying for her summer trip to Europe. In the end, Snay lost his $80,000 settlement on the grounds that he had broken his confidentiality agreement by informing his daughter of the lawsuit’s outcome.