The Sands Bethlehem Casino is out of luck in its bid to access a woman’s social media accounts to seek evidence that she was not as badly hurt from a slip-and-fall in the casino as she claimed.
Northampton Court of Common Pleas Judge Craig Dally denied Sands’ motion to compel plaintiff Catrina Allen’s username and password information for her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Allen claimed that a right shoulder injury sustained in the casino fall impaired her ability to do multiple activities. Sands sought to refute her story by getting hold of social media posts showing Allen engaged in the activities she said she couldn’t perform.
Sands claimed the evidence was relevant for damages purposes and for impeaching Allen’s credibility. Allen—who testified that, since the accident, she has not visited family, gone to the movies, bowled, or gone to the park with her children—said the posts at issue were consistent with her claims.
Ultimately, Dally said Sands was off point; a photo of Allen attending a baseball game or visiting family doesn’t mean she was performing strenuous activity she claimed she was unable to do.
“It is not Mrs. Allen’s contention that she has been rendered unable to engage in all the activities of daily living,” Dally said. “Rather, she claims that her activities of daily living have been limited by a right shoulder injury.”
The judge continued, “In the Facebook posts and in the portion of Mrs. Allen’s deposition relied upon by defendant in support of their motion, there is nothing to suggest the unreliability of Mrs. Allen’s claims with respect to the nature and scope of her injury, as none of the activities referenced show or suggest the strenuous use of her right shoulder.”
Dally acknowledged a difference between Allen’s deposition testimony and what was on Facebook, but said her legal claims held firm.
“While Mrs. Allen’s public Facebook posts controvert her deposition testimony, it cannot be said that they controvert her legal claims,” Dally said. “Accordingly, the court finds that defendant has failed to establish the relevancy prong of the portion of their request addressed to discovery of Mrs. Allen’s Facebook account.”
“Moreover,” he added, “defendant has made absolutely no attempt to establish a factual predicate in support of their request for access to her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Accordingly their discovery request is denied in its entirety.”
Robert J. Balch of Post & Schell represents Sands and declined to comment.
Anthony Baratta of Baratta, Russell & Baratta represents Allen and did not respond to a request for comment.