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Friday, May 11, 2012

Using Social Media to Win in Court

Today everyone is online in one way or another...especially in the "Social" sector. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, even Linked-In. I prefer Linked-In myself. We've all heard the stories about employers checking the profiles and updates of potential employees only to find something less than stellar and not offer employment as a result, but what about in court or even in an arbitration, a simple board meeting or your old fashioned take over!

Here, I'm offering a short series on USING SOCIAL MEDIA to "WIN IN COURT" as if anyone ever really wins.

Your adversary in litigation may be posting information online that could help you win your case. Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace have exploded in popularity in the past several years. Every month Facebook users post 30 billion pieces of content such as comments, photos, videos, new stories, and web links. Ninety-five million short messages or "tweets"are posted every day on Twitter. For example: "I had such a great run this afternoon. 5 miles today. I'm going to go for 6 miles tomorrow." This tweet would be a key piece of evidence to an attorney defending a personal injury case where the plaintiff claims he can no longer run due to his injuries. There is a good chance that many of your opponents are users of social media. They may be posting information that can make your case.

Personal Injury Cases

In personal injury cases the extent or existence of a plaintiff’s injuries is often disputed. Dishonest plaintiffs may post photos or videos online that contradict their injury claims. Personal injury plaintiffs who claim they are unable to do the activities they once enjoyed may post photos or publish comments that reveal that their claims are exaggerated or simply untrue. A defense attorney who knows how to search Facebook might find photos of a plaintiff lifting his child high in the air or playing golf. Where the same plaintiff alleges that the disputed accident caused him to sustain permanent, severe back injuries, the photos may defeat or significantly diminish the value of his personal injury case. In these cases, mining social networking websites for information can take the place of hiring a private investigator investigator to conduct surveillance.In a recent Federal District Court case in California, the plaintiff claimed that after the accident at issue, his life was constantly “hell on earth.” Yet, in one MySpace comment he wrote that painting is “a frustrating activity when his arm hairs would get caught in paint.” This post was written after the accident in the present tense, leading the court to conclude that the plaintiff actually could engage in activities he claimed the accident had precluded him from doing. Painting was on the plaintiff’s list of activities that were adversely affected by the accident. The court agreed that the plaintiff incurred some general damages attributable to the accident, but found that the evidence including his online postings about painting belied his claim of constant pain and rendered his testimony regarding the extent of his pain not credible.

So be on the look out, if your taking off a sick day and posting an amazing round of golf might just get FIRED....or worse, loose to your workman's comp claim....anyway be on the lookout for more in future posts, coming up.....THAT PESKY SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE!

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