Password Please

A court in Pennsylvania recently ordered a personal injury plaintiff to provide the defense counsel with his passwords to any social media sites to which he belongs. The defendant argued that it needed the access to determine if plaintiff had indeed suffered the serious injuries he alleged resulted from a forklift accident. This struck me at first as a pretty extreme measure. I’m not sure why the court wouldn’t simply order the plaintiff to produce copies of any postings (including photos) that would reflect on the injury. The order, which effectively lets the defense counsel rummage through the plaintiffs’ sites, seems like a pretty major privacy breach. But I’m not sure this is as bad as it sounds. The case indicates that the plaintiff had posted photos and notes on publicly available sites, after the accident, that showed him in shorts and listed his hobbies as “ridin” and “bike stunts.” This seemed to contradict the plaintiff’s contention that his injuries were serious and that he was embarrassed to wear shorts in public. We call this “opening the door” in the legal business, meaning, in plain English “you asked for it.” A more circumspect (or, let’s be honest, smarter) plaintiff may not be subject to a similar order.