Recently, the Florida Appellate Court made a very important decision regarding social media photographs in civil cases. In their opinion, the court stated that social media photographs are not protected from civil discovery and must be disbursed with other discovery. The court concluded that individuals have little to no rights of privacy with regard to information and documents that are posted to social media sites.

The Original Case

The opinion of the court came from a case between Maria Nucci and Target Corporation. Maria Nucci had sued Target Corporation in a personal injury lawsuit regarding injuries that she sustained when she slipped and fell while shopping at a Target store. During the discovery process of the trial, Target and their attorneys requested to be allowed access to photographs that were posted on Nucci’s personal Facebook page, which the state trial court granted. Subsequently, Maria Nucci petitioned the Florida Court of Appeals to quash the discovery order and prevent Target the access to her photos.

The Court’s Decision

Florida’s Appellate Court ultimately granted the access to the photographs, stating that photographs are an important part of a case and that they are able to provide the court and jurors with many facts that are not only helpful, but also necessary in order to properly decide a personal injury case. They stated that testimony alone at trial is insufficient and that by allowing photographs the court is able “to grasp what a plaintiff’s life was like prior to an accident.”

The court’s opinion stemmed from a unanimous three-judge panel with Judge Robert M. Gross writing the opinion for the court. In their opinion, the court reasoned that content and especially photographs that are posted on a social media website are neither privileged nor protected by a person’s right of privacy. They stated that a user’s privacy settings on that social media page does not change this privilege. Judge Gross stated that “because information that an individual shares through social networking websites like Facebook may be copied and disseminated by another, the expectation that such information is private, in the traditional sense of the word, is not a reasonable one.” Maria Nucci was ultimately required to give access to her photographs and the access to social media sites for a future case is now forever changed.

Basics of Discovery

The discovery process is a very important part of a trial. During the discovery process, parties investigate and gather information that is related to the lawsuit. The process generally turns up facts and documents of the case that may not have been previously known, but may be important in their position of the case. The discovery process generally will take place outside of the courtroom by having the parties exchange various forms of documents and conduct depositions or other interviews with witnesses.

Have You Been Injured?

Filing a civil lawsuit has a host of complexities that can be easily navigated with the help of a legal professional. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.