Thursday, July 26, 2012

Social Media Changing The Way Lawyers Prosecute

According to an article by the Rockland County Times, Facebook and other social media sites are changing the ways that laws are interpreted and executed in terms of evidence and discovery. The article cited a particular example, similar to another cited in our blog earlier this week, that outlined the following:

"In another local case, a Westchester County jury dismissed a man’s personal injury case when it was discovered that he lied during his testimony regarding his injuries. During examination, the man testified that a slip and fall from a loading dock caused extensive back injuries that prevented him from engaging in many physical activities. However, when defense lawyers introduced the man’s Facebook page, a different story emerged.
The man had posted pictures of himself playing basketball, water skiing on vacation and even hauling heavy lumber used to rebuild the deck on his house, all while he claimed to be injured (and he didn’t have a permit to build the deck). It took the jury only 30 minutes to reach its verdict, denying the man’s claim in its entirety."

 In the wake of social media being used as evidence in court cases, some experts anticipate a few issues will start to creep up in national news.  One of the most pressing is publicity rights as they relate to social media.  When a person posts information and pictures, it may or may not be considered allowable for companies to use the information commercially without written consent.  This issue has not formally been decided, but will play a huge role in how internet advertisers create ads in the future.  Additionally, the concept of who actually owns a Twitter account is another hot-button issue. If a company uses a Twitter account for marketing and branding, does the employer or the employee own the account?  This becomes an issue if the employee chooses to leave the company and may request to take his/her account and followers somewhere else. 

Interestingly,  the Rockland County Times article also mentioned that National Labor Relations Board is currently trying to enact guidelines on to protect employee activities on social media sites. Last year alone, the NLRB was involved in many court cases based on employer-employee conflict regarding social media posts.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury attorney serving western and central Pennsylvania. Please visit his website at

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