In Kelter v. Fanagan (No. 286 Civil 2017, Ct. Com. Pleas – Monroe Cty.), the court recently granted the defendant’s request in a personal injury case for access to the private Instagram account maintained by the plaintiff, holding that the account may contain relevant information relating to her injuries. According to the court, the fact that the plaintiff “changed her account to a private setting, rather than eliminate the account and her use of this social networking source, casts doubt on the assertion that there is nothing relevant in the account postings.”
Following the filing of the lawsuit, defendant’s counsel collected and preserved information that the plaintiff had publicly posted on her Instagram account after her accident. These posts appeared to show that she was “engaged in vigorous physical activity both before and after the accident” and included “reference[s] to shoveling snow and going to the gym after the accident.” At her deposition, plaintiff testified that she did not have a Facebook account or any social media accounts, but after defense counsel showed her the posts from her public Instagram account, she admitted that she had an Instagram account. Following the deposition, she converted the Instagram account to allow private access only. In a motion to compel, defendant sought access to the private Instagram account on the basis that it might contain similar additional posts relevant to plaintiff’s injuries.
Plaintiff opposed the motion arguing that defendant already had access to what she had previously posted publicly. The court rejected this argument stating that “the fact that information was available on a public access basis for a period of time, does not eliminate the need for full access to the account by the defendant.” The court further stated that “Plaintiff has chosen to interact and share her personal life with others through social media. If she disclosed other information similar to the posts Defendant obtained for her deposition, it would be relevant to this case.” Accordingly, the court ordered plaintiff to disclose her Instagram account log-in information to defendant’s counsel. A copy of the court’s opinion is available here.