The United States District Court for the District of Kansas recently clarified the scope of discoverable information from private social media accounts.

In Stonebarger v. Union Pacific Corp., a wrongful death case where plaintiffs were seeking to recover damages for the deaths of two individuals killed in a collision, the defendants requested two types of information from plaintiffs’ social media accounts: (1) all account data for each plaintiff’s Facebook page, and (2) all photographs posted, uploaded or otherwise added to any social networking sites or blogs since the date of the accident.

Plaintiffs asserted various objections (including relevancy, overbreadth, and invasion of privacy), though they offered to produce requested information from their “public” Facebook postings.

Surveying a few other cases discussing the discoverability of social media, the court ultimately took the middle ground. It held that permitting discovery of all social media went too far, but given that the plaintiffs had put their emotional states at issue, limited discovery was permitted into private Facebook postings relevant to that issue. This approach, in the court’s view, provided an appropriate balance between allowing the defendant to discover information relevant to the plaintiffs’ claims while also protecting Plaintiffs from a fishing expedition. We previously covered a New York state court opinion that reached a similar result.

This article was prepared by James V. Leito IV
( / +1 214 855 8004), an associate in Norton Rose Fulbright’s litigation practice group.