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Robert Offenback v. L.M. Bowman

June 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)


The District Court has referred the above-captioned action to the undersigned for the purposes of conducting an in camera review of Plaintiff's Facebook and MySpace accounts in order to determine whether certain information contained within Plaintiff's accounts is properly subject to discovery in this case. (Doc. 19.)

The Court subsequently held a telephonic case management conference with the parties to address the discovery dispute, and directed Plaintiff to provide the Court with the log-in information for his Facebook and MySpace accounts. Plaintiff subsequently provided this information to the Court with respect to his Facebook account, and represented that he could no longer locate information related to his MySpace account, since he had neither activated nor used the account since November 2008. Plaintiff conceded that limited public information contained within his Facebook account was properly subject to discovery, provided that the information could be considered relevant in accordance with Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

As the party requesting the discovery from Plaintiff's social media accounts, Defendants provided the Court with the following summary of the case and of the issues they believed to be relevant to the Court's review:

This action arises from a vehicular accident that occurred on November 6, 2008. Plaintiff claims that he suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result of that accident.

His claimed physical injuries include claims of right shoulder and lower back injuries. Accordingly, Plaintiff's physical capabilities and activities are relevant to the review.

Plaintiff alleges that his claimed physical injuries limited his ability to sit, walk, stand, ride in a vehicle, bend, stoop, push, pull, and lift. He claimed that he could not drive for any period of time and is physically limited as to riding his bicycle or motorcycle.

Plaintiff also claims that he suffered psychological injuries as a result of the accident. He claims that he suffers anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.

Plaintiff alleges that the psychological conditions resulted in decreased sociability and lack of intimacy. He alleges that he is fearful and nervous in traffic and around other vehicles. Accordingly, Plaintiff's social activities, transportation related activities, and expressions of emotion are relevant to this review.

Plaintiff also contends that is [sic] cannot work as a result of the physical and psychological injuries he claims from this accident. It is noted that Plaintiff purchased a property in Kentucky prior to the accident. He had planned to relocate to his employer's facility near the Kentucky property, but this possibility evaporated [due] to his employer's economic situation. Thus, information as to Plaintiff's relocation and plans are relevant to his motivation in this matter.

(Letter from Defendants' counsel to the Court dated May 2, 2011.)

The Court has carefully reviewed the allegations set forth in Plaintiff's complaint, as well as other filings in this action, so as to ascertain the claims and defenses at issue. In addition, the Court has considered the parties' competing letters in which they explain their respective positions regarding Defendants' assertion that Plaintiff's Facebook account may contain discoverable information under Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 Informed by this review of the pleadings and other information in the record, and assisted by the parties' respective submissions, the Court conducted a thorough in camera review of Plaintiff's Facebook account on June 20, 2011.

The Court's review revealed that Plaintiff first activated his Facebook account on or about February 1, 2009, and that the account has remained active through the current date. Review of Plaintiff's Facebook account, including a thorough review of Plaintiff's "Profile" postings, photographs, and other information, reveals that the information and material contained within Plaintiff's Facebook account are unrelated in any way to the events that give rise to the cause of action in this case, and are largely irrelevant, or not likely to lead to the discovery of evidence relevant to the claims and defenses in this action. However, in consideration of the broad scope of relevance that Defendants' have argued in favor of above, and in consideration of Plaintiff's acknowledgment that "limited [relevant] 'public' information is clearly discoverable under recent ...

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