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Pennsylvania Judge Allows Facebook Fishing in Sucker Punch Lawsuit

At this point, there is a plethora of viable excuses in litigation to gain access to your opponents’ Facebook pages. Divorce, workplace discrimination, you name it, you can probably gain access somehow.

That said, most often it is defendants asking for social media access, not plaintiffs.

So we were intrigued to hear about a recent decision that allowed a plaintiff unsupervised access to the Facebook account of the man he sued for punching him in the face during a soccer game gone wrong. Why did he get access? Just for the heck of it….

From the Law Technology News:

A Montgomery County, Pa., judge has allowed a man claiming he was sucker-punched during a work-sponsored soccer game to investigate the Facebook page of his alleged attacker, ostensibly to find information to bolster his civil lawsuit.

Common Pleas Court Judge William R. Carpenter’s ruling touches on a novel Facebook discovery request in that it was the plaintiff asking the court to turn over his opponent’s log-in credentials. The judge ordered the alleged attacker to not delete or otherwise erase any information on his Facebook account.

Nicholas Gallagher was playing against Matthew A. Urbanovich in an intramural soccer game between the two men’s employers. Urbanovich works for J.G. Wentworth, a financial services firm.

First, was this an intramural soccer league or a fight club? The economy is so bad, maybe these guys were playing for their jobs, and that’s why it got out of hand.

It would be interesting to see what turns up. Under favorite movies, does Urbanovich list “Sucker Punch,” “Fists of Fury,” and this really funny Andy Samberg video?

The court made Urbanovich turn over all of his login information so that the plaintiff could “probe” the Facebook account. The plaintiff got permission, even though his attorneys weren’t looking for anything specific. But Urbanovich only had to allow them access for seven days. That window has since closed, so Urbanovich can now change (and hopefully has already) his password to something new.

Is it a little unsettling to give opponents in litigation unsupervised access to your Facebook account? Maybe. The LTN piece explains how things normally work in this space:

The emerging standard among common pleas courts appears to be that, if information readily available on a party’s “public” page warrants a deeper probe, a judge will allow it. But if nothing on a person’s public profile acts to open the gates of discovery, his or her private page will stay that way.

As Franklin County Common Pleas Court President Judge Douglas W. Herman put it in a decision late last year, “viewing relevant information on the public profile acts as a gateway to the private profile.”

Gallagher appears to be an outlier.

So, as if you all didn’t know this, if you commit a crime (or represent someone who might have), just don’t talk about it anywhere on your Facebook account, even in private messages.

When a problem comes along, you must zip it!

Judge Allows Man to Probe Alleged Assailant’s Facebook Page [Law Technology News]

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