Spokane Personal Injury | Facebook Is Evidence

Every lawyer recognizes that destroying evidence prior to trial is wrong and unethical. But what about destruction of a Facebook page prior to trial? Turns out, removing photographs or altering a Facebook page can result in the trial court issuing heavy sanctions.

In Lester v. Allied Concrete Co ., a wrongful death lawsuit pending in Virginia state court, lawyer Mathew Murray instructed his client to remove 15 photographs from his Facebook page. His client, likely not knowing better, removed the photographs. Compounding the issue was the fact that Murray’s client denied having a Facebook page under oath when the defense took his deposition.

When the trial court found out about the removal and Murray’s involvement, it issued one of the heaviest sanctions I have ever seen. Murray was ordered by the trial court to pay a $522,000 fine for instructing his client to remove the photographs. His client, who did not escape the court’s wrath, was ordered to pay a $180,000 fine.

To date, I have not seen much discussion about Facebook pages as evidence in Washington court opinions. At this point, the best practice would be to treat Facebook pages like any other piece of evidence.

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2 Responses to Spokane Personal Injury | Facebook Is Evidence

  1. spokanephysicaltherapist says:

    Reblogged this on spokanephysicaltherapist and commented:
    I know this isn’t physical therapy related but I thought it important for all to know. A lawyer friend of mine posted this on his blog. Makes you think twice about posting stuff on Facebook!

  2. Jamie says:

    All discussions of privacy aside, this is definitely an interesting point of intersection between social media and real life. Surely, it won’t stop with Facebook. What about deleting incriminating Tweets? Or deleting check-ins from location-based social media updates on platforms like Foursquare?

    One other point, since all of our photos become Facebook’s property when we post them, to what extent can those be subpoenaed as evidence? Even if we delete them, they still exist on Facebook’s servers, somewhere.

    Great post, Kent. I’d like to see more examples of these sorts of cases discussed here.

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