Court Limit’s The Breadth of Social Media Request in Discovery

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Court Limit’s The Breadth of Social Media Request in Discovery

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In today’s world of ever expanding data sources, we are constantly being faced with the question of proportionality. We are seeing requests that ask for such wide ranges such as “all Facebook and other social media postings” in Scott v United Postal Service (M.D. La. Dec 27, 2016).  The courts have recently taken a stance on shutting down these requests without proper justification based on Rule 26(b)(1).

Case Overview

In this personal injury suit, the defendant, USPS, and the plaintiff, Scott, got into an e-discovery argument over the production of the plaintiff’s social media data. In most personal personal injury suits, the defendants want to know if the plaintiff’s personal injury claim is valid based on her physical activity following the accident.  This would usually be easily identified by a particular time frame or date range.

The defendant request of the plaintiff to provide and identify an extensive amount of social media data including “all postings related to any type of physical or athletic activities…on all social media websites.” Additionally, the plaintiff contended that the defendant waived their right to object based on their failure to respond to their discovery requests in a timely fashion.

The plaintiff acknowledged that social media content is discoverable, but argues that the defendant’s request is “overly broad because it will require the production of a significant amount of irrelevant information.”

Ruling

  • Defendant’s Social Media Request Granted in Part. Even though the court found the defendant’s discovery requests “overly broad,” the court granted the defendant’s discovery request but limited the scope of the requests to that “(1) refer or relate to the physical injuries Plaintiff sustained as a result of the accident and any treatment she received therefor; or (2) reflect physical capabilities that are inconsistent with the injuries that Plaintiff allegedly suffered as a result of the accident.”
  • Proportionality Superseded Waiver. The court acknowledged that the plaintiff waived her objections to the discovery requests by using boilerplate objections. Nevertheless, the court ruled that the defendant’s discovery requests were disproportionate and thus narrowed the scope of the request.
  • Defendant Tried to Cooperate. Throughout their discovery negotiations, the defendant attempted multiple times to justify and explain why they were requesting the specified discovery parameters. The defendant sent emails and letters to the plaintiff trying to clarify their request and the reasoning behind it. When these negotiations failed, the defendant filed this motion.

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