In Miami, Florida, a father lost an $80,000 settlement he had obtained from his employer in an age-discrimination case when his teenage daughter bragged about the settlement in a Facebook posting. The employer argued, and the court agreed, that the Facebook posting violated a confidentiality provision in the Settlement Agreement.
Online postings, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are extraordinarily popular today. What few people understand, however, is that these postings can be easily discovered in litigation by the opposing side, often with devastating consequences. Divorce cases have been influenced by a spouse bragging about an adulterous relationship they had during the marriage. Personal injury cases have been lost when the “disabled plaintiff” brags about the skiing trips or other vacations they participated in.
Two important lessons should be gleaned from these situations. First, do not discuss on any Facebook or any online community any aspect of your pending or current case. You should expect that anything you say online can be obtained by the other side, including both messages and photographs. Second, once you have commenced a lawsuit, do not delete any online information that you may have created. In many cases, you will be required to disclose electronic communications to the opposing side. If it is revealed that prior to or during your lawsuit, you have deleted online information, you could be subject to severe court sanctions including being forced to pay the attorney’s fees of the other side or, in extreme cases, having your case dismissed.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].