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Plaintiff’s Instagram Account to Be Used as Evidence

A Monroe County Court of Common Pleas judge has ordered the Instagram account of a woman injured in a vehicle accident be open to the defendant in the case, to allow verification of the extent of her injuries.

Instagram accounts can be secured with privacy settings and users can determine who can see photos posted on the social media site.

Judge David J. Williamson ordered plaintiff Catherine Kelter grant access to defendant Joseph Flanagan so he and his legal team can review the content Kelter has posted to her Instagram account.

Judge Williamson acknowledged the increasing frequency with which social media and privacy issues are arising in Pennsylvania courts. Though judges have repeatedly ruled social media is admissible and can be discoverable, many argue this is an invasion of privacy.

According to Williamson, “Arguably, there does not even appear to be an expectation of privacy on social media as it relates to litigation because the account holder is sharing information with others in a public or quasi-public domain.”

Kelter had originally claimed to not have social media accounts, but the defense presented evidence to the contrary. She then admitted to having an Instagram page.

The defense presented pictures Kelter had posted of her shoveling snow and visiting the gym after the car accident, potentially calling into question the severity of her injuries.

Defense’s Request Granted for Access to Now-Private Social Media Account

Kelter’s account was originally public, but she changed the setting to private following the acknowledgment of the posts. The defense asked her account again be public, or at least available to the defense, so they can determine if other information posted is relevant. They also want to know if there have since been additional photos posted that would speak to the extent of Kelter’s injuries.

Kelter’s attorney believes the setting on her account should remain private, and voiced disagreement with the judge’s ruling in a recent email, stating, “We disagree with the ruling and believe that once the client or anyone agrees to go private, then the ability for defense counsel or anyone to enter that client’s private space should end. The pictures that were on display when the page was public are fair game, but anything added to the page after the client elects to take the page private should be off limits.”

Judge Williamson’s decision is significant because it further defines the use of social media in personal injury cases. His order instructs the plaintiff to not remove or delete any content from her account and instructs defense counsel to not share the information with anyone not related to the case.

How Social Media Affects Personal Injury Cases

The attorneys at Heavens Law have worked with individuals who have been injured in accidents and are concerned that social media could affect their case. The information you share online can be misinterpreted and used against you, so it’s important to have the guidance of someone who understands how social media affects personal injury law.

If you’d like to know more about the use of social media in personal injury cases or you have concerns social media activity could affect your case, contact Heavens Law at 888.897.5377.