Facebook user must open up about private content
Published Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:04PM EDT
An Ontario judge has ordered a man who is suing someone over injuries sustained in an auto accident to answer questions about his private Facebook content.
The ruling comes in the lawsuit of plaintiff John Leduc against defendant Janice Roman.
He launched the suit following a Feb. 7, 2004 accident in Lindsay. Leduc claims the event lessened his enjoyment of life.
Roman's lawyers want to cross-examine Leduc about what he is saying to friends in the area of his Facebook profile that is off-limits to the public.
Facebook is what's known as a social networking website. Individuals can create a profile, post information about themselves and communicate with "friends." They have some controls over how public or private to make certain information.
The defence did examine Leduc for discovery in November 2006. They didn't ask him at that time whether he maintained a Facebook page, Justice David Brown of the Superior Court of Justice wrote in a Feb. 20 ruling.
At another examination in May 2006, Leduc said he couldn't enjoy the same activities he did before the accident.
During a September 2007 interview with a psychiatrist, Leduc said he "did not have friends in his current area, although he had 'a lot on Facebook.'"
In June 2008, the defence went after the Facebook information.
A Superior Court case management master ruled for Leduc, saying the request was "clearly a fishing expedition."
Brown wrote that it is "beyond controversy" that a person's Facebook profile can contain things such as photographs that demonstrate someone's ability to engage in sports or other recreational activities.
"Facebook profiles are not designed to function as diaries; they enable users to construct personal networks or communities of 'friends' with whom they can share information about themselves, and on which 'friends' can post information about the user," the judge wrote.
"With respect, I do not regard the defendant's request as a fishing expedition. Mr. Leduc exercised control over a social networking and information site to which he allowed designated "friends" access. It is reasonable to infer that his social networking site likely contains some content relevant to the issue of how Mr. Leduc has been able to lead his life since the accident."
Brown opened the door to give the defence the right to cross-examine Leduc about the nature of the content on his Facebook page.
He also had this for lawyers: "Given the pervasive use of Facebook and the large volume of photographs typically posted on Facebook sites, it is now incumbent on a party's counsel to explain to the client, in appropriate cases, that documents posted on the party's Facebook profile may be relevant to allegations made in the pleadings."