Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Facebook Status Update and Your Deposition

If you are involved in any type of litigation, such as a divorce, a slip and fall case or a business dispute, you may find yourself being deposed at a deposition.  What does that mean?  It means that you will be required to attend a question and answer session in which opposing counsel, which may consist of more than one lawyer, will be able to ask you questions about just about everything but your waist size and you will be required to answer them verbally, under oath, all while being recorded by a stenographer.  There are no “life lines”, no opportunities to dodge the questions, you are on the spot and in the spotlight, often all while being observed by your opponent who may be your soon-to-be former spouse, your business rival, or your worst enemy.  Think you have nothing to hide?  That's doubtful.  Everyone has some embarrassing history; some buried secrets that they have managed to keep quiet, or worse, some serious transgressions that could permanently damage their reputation or career.  Not all attorneys will discover these treasures, and your attorney will try to minimize the impact of these revelations, but it is up to you to make sure that you are not inviting your opponent to easily stumble upon such matters.  With Facebook and other social media sites being so widely used, it is easier than ever to research an individual’s personal life.  That is why it is very important that you have your Facebook page, Twitter account and similar accounts protected with the highest privacy settings possible.  You also should never assume that your on-line connections are truly your friends, any one of them could be a “leak” and may allow your opponent to uncover information that you intended for a limited audience.  Your postings could also be subject to the “discovery” process in your case even if you have privacy settings on your account.  More alarming is the possibility that a Court may order you to provide password access to those accounts to your opponent.  Forbes Magazine has reported that a Connecticut judge ordered a divorcing party to turn over her social media and dating account passwords to her husband's attorney.  See the decision at Gallion v. Gallion.  Divorcing parties are not the only ones susceptible to this type of damage, personal injury claimants and other litigants can also find themselves unnecessarily exposed.  Notwithstanding the privacy settings, do not post anything on these sites or any other website (such as a blog) which you would not want revealed in a courtroom, which is exactly where the information could end up.  Even seemingly unrelated postings may give opposing parties or their counsel reason to raise questions about your conduct, connections, financial status, etc.  In general, always use your judgment and always limit what you post about yourself on-line, whether or not you have a case pending.  When in doubt, do not post!

Questions or comments about this blog can be directed to Attorney Bridget C. Gallagher bgallagher@bpslawyers.com