Facebook Being Used Against Personal Injury Victims

by John McKiggan

Defence Lawyers on Facebook

Everybody seems to be interested in Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media networks these days. That includes lawyers who represent insurance companies. There have been a series of cases across Canada where lawyers for insurance companies have demanded production of plaintiffs’ Facebook pages in order to use the information against the plaintiff.

Depressed Victim Looked Too Happy

In a recent case in Quebec, Nathalie Blanchard was on disability for depression. She had her benefits terminated because her insurance company, Manulife found pictures on her Facebook page where she was smiling and looking like she was having a good time. In other words, she didn’t look depressed so the insurance company cut off her benefits.

Blanchard is now suing Manulife to reinstate her disability benefits.

In New Brunswick the Court of The Queens Bench recently ordered a plaintiff to produce the contents of her Facebook page to the lawyers representing the defendant’s insurance company.

Online Information Must be Disclosed?

Court rules in each province require the parties to disclose any information they have that may be relevant to the matters at issue in litigation. This now includes any electronic information in possession of the parties. While this commonly refers to things like e-mail or digital documents, the courts have been extending the reach of this disclosure obligation to include online information.

In Leduc v. Roman the Ontario Court required the plaintiff to produce information from a “private” Facebook account. The judge in that decision stated:

“It is now incumbent on a party’s counsel to explain to the client, in appropriate cases, that documents posted on a party’s facebook profile may be relevant to the allegations made in the pleading.”

Facebook May Be Used For Cross Examination

In a recent case in Newfoundland, Terry v. Mullowney, the lawyer for the defendants used excerpts from the plaintiff’s facebook page to cross examine the plaintiff about his social life.

The judge commented on the use of this information:

“While not getting into the details of the excepts, they convince me that Mr. Terry (at least in the few months prior to his testimony in court) recorded on facebook had a rather full and active social life…I find it incredible that Mr. Terry’s social life miraculously improved in the few months he was communicating on facebook and that for the remainder of the time from 2001 to 2007 he essentially had little or no social life. Without this evidence I would have been left with a very different impression of Mr. Terry’s social life.”

Disclosure Obligations Extend Online

So in the future you can expect parties in litigation to demand complete disclosure of Facebook pages, Linkedin profiles, Twitter accounts and public Blogs. In short, any information that you post online can and may be used against you. Beware.

I have been representing victims of serious personal injuries for 18 years. I wrote The Consumers Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia and The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada to help injured victims get fair compensation.

Both books are available for sale on Amazon.

But if you live in Atlantic Canada, you can get a free copy of either the book by contacting me through this blog, visiting my website at www.apmlawyers.com or by calling me toll free in Atlantic Canada at 1-877-423-2050.

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