You get in a terrible accident. The other side is suspicious about your claims of recovery (or lack thereof). They want your instagram / facebook account information. You don't want to provide it - it's private, after all. What do?
The New York appellate division did something weird. It said the plaintiff must produce everything that the plaintiff is going to introduce at trial. That seems a terrible result, giving the plaintiff carte blanche to craft a narrative regardless of truth. Then the New York Court of Appeals (the highest state court in NY) fixed it. Complete disclosure isn't required, but neither is privacy:
Rather than applying a one-size-fits-all rule at either of these extremes, courts addressing disputes over the scope of social media discovery should employ our wellestablished rules – there is no need for a specialized or heightened factual predicate to avoid improper “fishing expeditions.” In the event that judicial intervention becomes necessary, courts should first consider the nature of the event giving rise to the litigation and the injuries claimed, as well as any other information specific to the case, to assess whether relevant material is likely to be found on the Facebook account. Second, balancing the potential utility of the information sought against any specific “privacy” or other concerns raised by the account holder, the court should issue an order tailored to the particular controversy that identifies the types of materials that must be disclosed while avoiding disclosure of nonrelevant materials. In a personal injury case such as this it is appropriate to consider the nature of the underlying incident and the injuries claimed and to craft a rule for discovering information specific to each. Temporal limitations may also be appropriate – for example, the court should consider whether photographs or messages posted years before an accident are likely to be germane to the litigation. Moreover, to the extent the account may contain sensitive or embarrassing materials of marginal relevance, the account holder can seek protection from the court (see CPLR 3103[a]). Here, for example, Supreme Court exempted from disclosure any photographs of plaintiff depicting nudity or romantic encounters.
The next frontier: what happens when you have proof a plaintiff deleted her social media account? Does that lead to a spoliation charge? I'd have to think it would.