How Social Media Evidence Can Be Used To Hurt Your Legal Case

How Social Media Evidence Can Be Used To Hurt Your Legal Case
Jan 4, 2017

A Pennsylvania appeals court recently issued an opinion that addresses the use of social media in civil cases. Almost all of us use some form of social media daily. Whether it’s Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or another app, we are used to sharing the details of our lives with friends and family, and sometimes, the public. And, at the time, the sharing of this information may seem like no big deal. But, some courts are beginning to hold that statements, pictures and other bits of information shared on social media can be used as evidence in a civil case.

In the Pennsylvania case, a woman experienced problems after being bitten by a tick. She saw a series of doctors who treated her worsening symptoms, but determined that she did not have Lyme Disease. Ultimately, they diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis. The patient grew suspicious that she was wrongly diagnosed and sought treatment from a medical provider who had a long history of treating patients with Lyme Disease. A genetic test was done that confirmed that the patient had Lyme Disease.

The legal issue in the case was whether the patient’s lawsuit was timely filed. As we’ve discussed before, civil cases must be filed within certain time limits or they can be thrown out of court. This patient filed her lawsuit many years after she saw the physicians she was suing, but she argued that she did not “discover” that she had a lawsuit until she learned the results of the genetic test many years later. She filed her lawsuit within 2 years of having learned the results of the genetic test.

The Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that the trial court correctly dismissed her case. In making this decision, they relied in part on a message she posted on Facebook which said, that she had been telling everyone “for years” that she thought she had Lyme Disease and her doctors were ignoring her. The court also quoted a Facebook friend’s response to her message, in which the friend wrote, “you did say you had Lyme so many times!” The court held that these Facebook posts demonstrated that she had developed a belief that she in fact had Lyme Disease prior to the results of the genetic test and that she had not filed her lawsuit by the required deadline.

In the world we live in today, it is important to always be mindful that what we post on social media can be seen by anyone and can’t be easily erased. Even innocent posts, can be used against you and distorted to say bad things about you. At the Warshauer Woodward Atkins, we have experience dealing with such difficult evidentiary issues and addressing them so that such evidence is not used against you or, if it is used, that it does not paint a distorted picture of who you are as a person.