Gordon v. T.G.R. Logistics, Inc.

321 F.R.D. 401 (2017)

Quick Summary

Brenda Gordon (plaintiff) sued T.G.R. Logistics, Inc. (defendant) after a vehicle accident that resulted in various injuries. The defendant sought Gordon’s full Facebook history for defense purposes. The dispute centered around whether such a request was appropriate under discovery rules.

The court concluded that while some post-accident social media content was relevant, demanding Gordon’s entire Facebook history was not proportional to the case’s needs and thus partly granted the motion to compel specific information.

Facts of the Case

Brenda Gordon (plaintiff) experienced a motor vehicle incident when her car was hit by a tractor-trailer operated by T.G.R. Logistics, Inc. (defendant). This collision led to Gordon claiming several injuries, including physical harm and psychological distress, specifically citing posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. In the lawsuit that ensued, T.G.R. Logistics sought access to Gordon’s complete Facebook account history, arguing it was necessary for their defense against her claims of injury.

The plaintiff complied partially by providing Facebook content that directly referenced the accident or her injuries and conducted specific keyword searches as requested by the defendant. However, Gordon resisted the demand to produce her entire Facebook history, deeming it excessively broad and an invasion of privacy.

Procedural Posture and History

  1. Plaintiff Brenda Gordon filed a lawsuit against T.G.R. Logistics, Inc. alleging physical and emotional injuries resulting from a car accident.
  2. T.G.R. Logistics requested the plaintiff’s complete Facebook account history during discovery.
  3. Gordon produced only the portions of her Facebook history that mentioned the accident or her injuries and conducted specific keyword searches.
  4. The defendant filed a motion to compel Gordon to produce her entire Facebook account history.
  5. The court held a hearing on the motion to compel.

I.R.A.C. Format

Issue

Whether the defendant’s request for the plaintiff’s entire Facebook account history is permissible under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26, considering relevance, burden, and proportionality.

Rule of Law

Discovery should encompass any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, with consideration given to the importance of the issues at stake, amount in controversy, parties’ access to relevant information, resources, and whether the burden or expense outweighs its likely benefit.

Reasoning and Analysis

The court assessed the relevancy and proportionality of the discovery request. It determined that while social media history could contain relevant information about a person’s well-being, it might also reveal an excessive amount of private data not traditionally accessible in civil litigation. The court emphasized that ease of retrieval does not negate potential burdensome effects. Moreover, it feared that broad discovery could deter plaintiffs with legitimate claims due to potential embarrassment.

Considering these factors, the court found that granting access to Gordon’s entire Facebook history would be disproportionate to the needs of the case. Instead, it mandated production of specific relevant portions post-dating the accident that could reasonably be expected to provide insight into her emotional distress and physical activity levels.

Conclusion

The court granted the motion to compel in part, ordering Gordon to produce post-accident Facebook content related to her emotional turmoil, mental state, and physical activity level but denied the request for her complete Facebook history.

Key Takeaways

  1. Discovery requests must be both relevant and proportional to the case’s needs.
  2. Social media content can be discoverable but is not granted unlimited protection from discovery requests.
  3. Privacy concerns and potential embarrassment are valid considerations in limiting the scope of discovery.
  4. The court may order production of specific relevant portions of social media data rather than entire account histories.

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References

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