Court Orders Disclosure of Information in Social Media Accounts of Plaintiff in Sex Harassment Case
Discovery of Social Media Content Relevant to “Mental State” — Reid v. Ingerman Smith LLP, 2012 WL 6720752 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 27, 2012)
Plaintiff Karissa Reid sued her employer for damages resulting from alleged sexual harassment. The defendants in the case requested discovery of information and documents relating to Reid’s social media accounts. The defendants argued that the postings and photographs from the public portions of Reid’s Facebook account contradicted her claims of emotional distress due to her alleged sexual harassment and termination. The defendants asked for discovery of the non-public portions of Reid’s Facebook account.
The court allowed discovery into the private portions of Reid’s Facebook account, finding that the publicly available portions of the account provided probative evidence of her mental and emotional state and could reveal the range of her activities—an important check against allegations that she no longer engaged in certain activities as a result of mental anguish. Although disclosure of Reid’s personal social media account could raise privacy concerns, the court ruled that privacy alone does not justify shielding information from discovery. The court cited the example of personal diaries, which are discoverable if they contain relevant information regarding contemporaneous mental states and impressions of parties. By analogy, the fact that Reid used privacy settings to allow only certain Facebook friends to see her postings did not give her a justifiable expectation of privacy as to the content posted on her social media accounts.
The court stopped short of ordering disclosure of everything in Reid’s social media accounts. The appropriate scope of discovery, according to the court, includes social media communications and photographs “that reveal, refer, or relate to any emotion, feeling, or mental state . . . [and] that reveal, refer, or relate to events that could reasonably expected to produce a significant emotion, feeling, or mental state.”