Defense Seeks Evidence of Physical Activity in Civil Lawsuit
Client: Regional Law Firm
Service: Social Media Investigation, Preservation, Litigation Support, Expert Witness
When a regional law firm in the Pacific Northwest was approved to go to trial in a personal injury lawsuit, they knew that social media evidence would play a key role in the case’s outcome. The lawsuit revolved around a traffic accident involving the plaintiff and a commercial vehicle which was insured by the company the law firm was representing.
The plaintiff alleged that the injuries they incurred in the accident prevented them from finding employment, traveling, and living an active lifestyle. The plaintiff’s attorneys were seeking that the insurance company pay a $1M settlement.
The law firm noticed inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s story and asked SMI to locate any evidence on their social media profiles which would refute the lawsuit’s claims.
Despite their use of an alias, our analysts were able to locate Facebook and Instagram accounts which could be positively attributed to the plaintiff. The subsequent investigation into these accounts discovered content which discredited many of the plaintiff’s claims, including:
- Check-ins from various locations on a recent vacation. (Evidence demonstrated their ability to travel.)
- Photographs of the plaintiff and several witnesses, who had corroborated the their claims of physical limitations in depositions, posing for pictures during a group hike. (Evidence discredited statements made in support of the plaintiffs physical limitations.)
- Photographs of the plaintiff engaged in drug-use and other behaviors which would be considered derogatory during a pre-employment screening. (Evidence of behaviors which might contribute to the plaintiff’s difficulty finding employment.)
After communicating the discoveries to members of the litigation team, our analysts used SMI’s proprietary technology to preserve all of the plaintiff’s social media profiles on our secure servers. The timely preservation of this content proved critical to the success of the case as the plaintiff deleted their Facebook account and made their Instagram account private in the weeks leading up to the trial.
The lawsuit went to trial 5-months after the social media investigation began. After initially soliciting affidavits in support of the evidence’s authenticity, the defense requested that the analysts who were involved in the discovery and preservation of the evidence appear as expert witnesses. (This was done out of an abundance of caution as it was the law firm’s first time using social media evidence and they believed that the plaintiff would deny its authenticity.)
Upon joining the defense team and reviewing the exhibits, the analysts realized that the litigation support company had removed crucial metadata as they were preparing the individual exhibits for the trial. The analysts were able to work with the litigation support coordinator ensure that the evidence would pass the court’s standard for admissibility.
The social media evidence discovered by SMI’s analysts became the linchpin of the defense’s case. When presented with the incriminating social media content, the plaintiff did not lie and authenticated the exhibits. In turn, the defense were able to use content of the social media posts to invalidate the plaintiff’s complaint.
Instead of the insurance company paying the six-figure settlement which the plaintiff had been seeking, the defense were able have the case dismissed.
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Featured image taken by Galen Crout via Unsplash