Facebook Postings Excluded In Auto Accident Case

The Legal Intelligencer reported today that “in Piccolo v. Paterson, Judge Albert J. Cepparulo issued a one-paragraph order denying the motion to compel filed by defendants Lindsay S. Paterson, Lee Anne Paterson, Linsey Paterson and Allstate Insurance Co.

The defendants wanted access to the photos of plaintiff Sara Piccolo that she posted of herself on the social networking site.

According to court documents, Piccolo filed an action against the defendants after she was injured in a one-car accident while a passenger in a car driven by defendant Lindsay Paterson. Paterson conceded liability but the case is ongoing because of a dispute over Piccolo’s damages.

According to the defense motion, filed by attorneys at Moore & Riemenschneider, Piccolo testified she had a Facebook account and was asked at deposition if the defense counsel could send a “neutral friend request” to Piccolo so that he could review the Facebook postings Piccolo testified she made every day.

Piccolo denied the request but, according to defense filings, said her status updates and pictures were available for public viewing and that she would not make them private. The defense argued in its motion, however, that when it went to Piccolo’s Facebook page, those postings were in fact private and only available to her “friends.”

Counsel sent Piccolo’s attorney, Benjamin G. Lipman of the Law Offices of Benjamin G. Lipman, a letter in September 2010 asking for Piccolo to accept a friend request from the defense.

Lipman ultimately denied the request, responding that the “‘materiality and importance of the evidence … is outweighed by the annoyance, embarrassment, oppression and burden to which it exposes’” Piccolo, according to the defense motion.”

We ask for Facebook information in most of our cases where we represent the insurance company, and we advise our plaintiffs that they should expect defense attorneys to want to see their photos on the social networking site.

We, however, do not, as the attorneys in this case did, ask to be a “friend” of the other side. We simply ask that they print and produce the photos to us. For as long as I have been practicing law, lawyers in New Orleans and Houston have asked for “vacation” photos. That practice has not really caught on in Baton Rouge, but the theory is the same. We guess the result would have been different if counsel for Allstate simply asked for the photos rather than a friend request.