Appellate Court Refuses to Overturn Discovery Order Compelling Production of Social Media Photos in Florida Slip and Fall Case

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has refused to overturn a unique discovery order in a premises liability action. In Nucci v. Target Corp., a woman allegedly slipped and fell on a foreign substance while shopping at a Florida department store in 2010. Following the incident, she filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store. In her complaint, the woman sought financial compensation for her resulting physical harm, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, future impairment, and other damages.

Prior to taking the injured woman’s deposition, counsel for the store reviewed the injured woman’s public Facebook social media profile. During her deposition, the attorney asked the woman to provide him with access to the photos included in her Facebook account. At the time, the woman objected to the company’s request. Two days later, counsel for the store again reviewed the woman’s social media profile and discovered a number of photographs were deleted. After that, the store filed a motion to compel inspection of the woman’s Facebook account. The store also asked the woman to refrain from destroying any further information included in her social media account.

In its request, the store claimed that the information contained in the woman’s Facebook profile was relevant to both her physical and emotional state. The hurt woman countered that she enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy because the general public was not allowed to review the content included in her Facebook account. She also claimed that the store was engaging in a fishing expedition, and allowing the store’s attorneys to review her social media account would constitute an invasion of her privacy.

Following a hearing on the matter, the trial court denied the company’s motion because it was too vague and overbroad. After that, the store filed a narrower discovery request. The request included four interrogatories related to social media and sought production of photos of the allegedly injured woman. In response, the woman raised the same objections to the store’s request. Following another hearing, the court granted the store’s motion with regard to two interrogatories and its request for photos from the two-year period preceding the woman’s fall through the present day. The woman then sought appellate review of the trial court’s order.

The injured woman argued before the Fourth District that the terms of the lower court’s discovery order constituted an invasion of her privacy and departed from the “essential requirements of the law.” She also claimed that the content included in her Facebook account was protected from disclosure by the Federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”). Despite her broad objections, the hurt woman did not claim that any specific photos or other information might cause her embarrassment or other harm.

The store countered by arguing the photos were relevant to demonstrate that the woman overstated the physical harm she endured in her slip and fall. According to the store, the photos would allow the fact finder to compare any changes in the woman’s quality of life and limitations she suffered as a result of her injury. The store also claimed that the woman had no expectation of privacy with regard to the contents of her social media account. Finally, the store argued that a Florida court may compel production of such information without violating the SCA.

According to Florida’s Fourth District, the trial court’s discovery order did not depart from the essential requirements of law. The court held that the case did not meet the strict requirements for certiorari relief in Florida. The appeals court also said the scope of discovery in the State of Florida is broad and may only be reviewed for an abuse of discretion.  The court added that the information sought by the store was highly relevant to the case, and the woman had only a limited privacy right in any of the photos she posted on her Facebook account. After rejecting each of the woman’s claims, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied her petition for certiorari.

If you suffered a personal injury due to a Miami property owner’s negligence, you need an experienced lawyer to advocate on your behalf. The knowledgeable premises liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. may be able to help.  To discuss your rights with a veteran lawyer today, call Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Nucci v. Target Corp., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2015

More Blog Posts:

Southern District of Florida Refuses to Dismiss Negligence Claims Against Cruise Ship Over Shore Excursion Accident, January 8, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Appeals Court Says Video Deposition Evidence May be Used During Closing Argument in Florida, January 5, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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