In previous posts, the contributors to this blog have commented on the ever-changing status of Pennsylvania law regarding whether a defendant is entitled to gain access to a plaintiff’s Facebook pages. In the most recent decision on this issue, Judge William J. Manfredi of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas denied a defendant’s request for access to a plaintiff’s Facebook pages. Martin v. Allstate Fire and Cas. Ins. Co., No. 110402438 (C.P. Phila, Dec. 13, 2011).
At first glance, this decision seems to be a huge win for plaintiff’s, cutting against the growing trend in Pennsylvania of allowing access to social media websites. However, upon closer inspection, this may not be the case. Judge Manfedi’s ruling seems to center around the fact that the defendant failed to identify any information contained on the plaintiff’s Facebook site that would warrant further discovery. In other words, this ruling will not serve to prevent defendants from gaining access to Facebook where they are able to identify such information.
The bottom line is it is still incredibly important to be careful what you post on Facebook and also to monitor what is being posted about you. A seemingly innocent post by a friend on your wall or a comment on a photo may be enough to allow a defendant to gain full access to your Facebook site. It is also advisable to adjust your Facebook privacy settings to limit the amount of information that is visible to the public.
At Stark & Stark, we always make it a point to discuss the use of Facebook, and other social mediums, during our initial client interview and intake process. We counsel our clients to be very careful as to what they post on these sites and remind them that this information could be obtained by the defendants. We also instruct our clients not delete or alter any existing posts.