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Florida premises liability case delves into social media

Just about everyone in the Ocala area has probably at least heard about social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of whether a person uses them, odds are that they are somewhat familiar with the social media websites, given their vast popularity. But can Facebook photos be evidence?

A recent premises liability lawsuit in Florida took a detour due to posts on Facebook. A woman filed the lawsuit against Target Corp., claiming that she had a slip-and-fall accident while in one of the company’s retail stores. During the beginning phases of the litigation, Target requested that the woman turn over photographs of herself that she had posted on Facebook.

Can Facebook photos be evidence?
The woman objected to Target’s request, but the trial court ordered her to turn over the photos. Following that ruling, the woman petitioned the Court of Appeal of Florida, hoping that the higher court would overturn the trial’s court’s decision.

The appellate court upheld the trial court, reasoning that photos of the woman were a meaningful way of demonstrating how her life was before she slipped and fell in the store. The court also explained that social media users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the material that they post for others to see.

Although this particular part of the case did not go in favor of the woman that filed the case, it does not necessarily mean that she will be unable to recover compensation from Target. Presumably, Target sought to use the Facebook posts to show that the woman’s life had not been drastically affected by any injuries that she may have suffered when she fell. But, the woman may have other evidence that she can present to rebut that contention.

The Florida appellate court based its decision, in-part, on the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. But even a picture doesn’t always accurately tell the whole story.

Source: The National Law Review, “Florida Court Rules that Social Media Photographs are Not Protected From Civil Discovery,” Jan. 9, 2015

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