NY Court of Appeals Outlines Standards for Social Media Discovery

In Forman v. Henkin, 2018 NY Slip Op 01015 (N.Y. Ct. App. Feb. 13, 2018), a personal injury case, the New York Court of Appeals provided guidance on how courts should evaluate discovery requests for discovery of information from litigants’ social media accounts.

Judge DiFiore wrote:

[C]ourts addressing disputes over the scope of social media discovery should employ our well-established rules — there is no need for a specialized or heightened factual predicate to avoid improper “fishing expeditions.” In the event that judicial intervention becomes necessary, courts should first consider the nature of the event giving rise to the litigation and the injuries claimed, as well as any other information specific to the case, to assess whether relevant material is likely to be found on the Facebook account. Second, balancing the potential utility of the information sought against any specific “privacy” or other concerns raised by the account holder, the court should issue an order tailored to the particular controversy that identifies the types of materials that must be disclosed while avoiding disclosure of nonrelevant materials.

The court held that the Appellate Division “erred in concluding that defendant had not met his threshold burden of showing that the materials from plaintiff’s Facebook account that were ordered to be disclosed pursuant to Supreme Court’s order were reasonably calculated to contain evidence ‘material and necessary’ to the litigation.”