An Eastern District of Michigan judge held that a personal injury defendant could not discover the plaintiff’s private Facebook content under Rule 26(b) governing the discoverability of evidence. Tompkins v. Detroit Metropolitan Airport, No. 2:10-cv-10413-BAF-RSW (E.D. Mich, Jan. 18, 2012). Although—as the court noted—the private portions of a user’s Facebook account are not generally privileged or protected by common law privacy rights, “the Defendant does not have a generalized right to rummage at will through information that Plaintiff has limited from public view.”
The court required the defendant to make “a threshold showing that the requested information is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” so as to avoid “the proverbial fishing expedition.” The defendant proffered some of the plaintiff’s public postings as support, including photographs showing the plaintiff holding a dog and grocery shopping. Because these pictures were not inconsistent with the plaintiff’s claims of injury, the defendant did not establish relevance.
“If the Plaintiff’s public Facebook page contained pictures of her playing golf or riding horseback, Defendant might have a stronger argument for delving into the non-public section of her account,” the court noted.