The Western District of Pennsylvania Weighs in on the Admissibility of Facebook Posts

by: Kelly A. Williams, a shareholder at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C.

wd-pa-courthouseIn Newill v. Campbell Transp. Co., plaintiff sought to preclude defendant from introducing several of his Facebook posts into evidence on the bases that the posts were irrelevant or would be unfairly prejudicial. The case involved personal injury claims and employability issues. Defendant had obtained Facebook posts showing plaintiff engaging in physically taxing activities and posts showing plaintiff using “casual or rough language.” Defendant sought to use the physical activity posts to show that plaintiff retained the ability to engage in physical activities and sought to use the “language” posts to argue that plaintiff would have been employed had he not posted questionable language on Facebook.

The court held that the physical activity posts were relevant and admissible for the purpose of showing plaintiff could engage in physical activity but that his posts of “casual or rough” language were not admissible for supporting the claim that he remained unemployed because of these posts. With respect to the physical activity posts, the court ruled that plaintiff’s claim that he was embarrassed by the posts was not sufficient to preclude their admissibility generally. However, the court did state that it would be willing to assess particular posts at trial and whether there was a sufficient basis for excluding them under Federal Rule of Evidence 611 (granting the court discretion to bar harassment and undue embarrassment of a witness). As to the claim that the “language” posts interfered with plaintiff’s ability to find employment, the court held that this was speculation on the part of defendant’s expert, and therefore, they were inadmissible.

Newill v. Campbell Transp. Co., 2:12-cv-1344 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 14, 2015). The full opinion can be found here.

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